Chinese military action blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2” (战狼2), set in a generic African nation and starring co-writer and -director Wu Jing, became the highest grossing Chinese box office hit ever just 12 days after its premiere. In its third week in theaters, attendance fell off, but its overall performance was still strong enough to make it the world’s fifth highest-grossing film in a single territory, and allow it to break into the list of the 100 highest-grossing films worldwide. The film’s nationalistic theme (promotional material carried the tagline “anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is,” a message that evokes a recent speech given by Xi Jinping at a massive military parade in Inner Mongolia) was described by Quartz’ Lily Kuo as representing “China’s own version of the White Savior.”
While the unrestrained patriotic themes in the film have earned it positive reviews from nationalistically-inclined Chinese media outlets and many commentators on its Douban page, others have criticized Wu Jing for taking advantage of politics to sell tickets, and for emulating the Hollywood trope of hero-worship. A WeChat post from the public account KōngxīnCǎidàn (空心彩蛋，ID: tianxinbabies) took issue with the film’s theme, and with the actor/director/writer’s comments on the movie. The post has been censored, but is archived in full at CDT Chinese. An excerpt of the essay is translated below:
3 Billion at the Box Office in Praise of One Lie
Wolf Warrior, with 3 billion at the box office, is quite a potent concentration of this country’s stupidity and disgusting behavior. According to the newswire, Wu Jing has said ‘if you don’t like Chinese heroism, you all can go watch American blockbusters.’
People’s artist and “big pink” Wu Jing may have forgotten, not only do we have “domestic film industry protection month,” but the cinema’s movie lineups also must yield to their Party nature. Under these circumstances, to say “if you like this then by go see it,” is the same as our little friend’s reading of “killing off the target no matter how far away he is.” Neither is even possible, so it’s all just talk.
To speak truthfully, everyone really wants to see Spider-Man, but how can we? We can always go online to watch Hollywood blockbusters, eh? Oh right, foreign films and series were both already taken off the shelves, a copyright issue, I get it.
And where did Winnie the Pooh go? American blockbusters, along with Winnie the Pooh and his “little pink” friend Tigger. The spirit of this blockbuster seems to be more in accordance with socialist values, themes, and positive energy, all of which are Fortresses Besieged and need more optimism.
In short, when standing at one of life’s crossroads we have two options: go to the cinema to see Wolf Warrior, forever loving your country with your eyes brimming tears of excitement, moved to the point of incontinence; or question it on behalf of our assailed and humiliated China, which has grown used to being looked down on.
Are today’s movie stars really so sensitive? When told their acting skills are lacking they’ll shed tears in front of everyone, when it’s said that a movie lionizes an individual it’s actually the audience’s mistake? Not only does the government have to act as your father, but the actors wish to be your nosy uncle, who in concert with your father carefully sorts you out.
People’s artist is only an occupation, no different from Auntie Wang selling egg cakes on the street. It’s not for Aunty Wang to say if the cakes are tasty or not, or for you to dictate whether the audience buys tickets. Some people buy your tickets, but that doesn’t mean that others have to. Those who have truly contributed to society are wolves. But you’re not a wolf, you’re a dog.
Will the motherland always have your back? Then why isn’t it in front of you allowing you to hide behind it?
Shot in France, murdered in Japan, missing in America, kidnapped in Pakistan, what came from the complaints of the motherland? Those who struggled most for their rights and benefits were the local overseas Chinese.
In the end all you in China who coldly assess that the mainland is still the safest: In China everyday so many drop dead, but do you know, are you concerned, do you really believe that you even care?
If you’re in trouble, the government can dispatch a helicopter for you, you’ve seen how the marketing and media show it. But those Chinese passport holding passengers detained at the airport, does the motherland care about them? Of course not, the motherland is powerful, it doesn’t need to care about you.
Many say they understand the little pinks, how they’re “fenced in by their own lie experiences.” I’m unwilling to understand them, just the same as how they refuse to understand me. I’m also unwilling to sympathize with them. […] [Chinese]
After the essay was deleted, the WeChat user posted a follow-up essay attacking the “patriotism” of those who reported his original post. The follow-up too was censored, and once again CDT Chinese has archived the post in full. An excerpt is translated below:
Whom Do We Celebrate
This morning I saw that ‘3 Billion at the Box Office in Praise of One Lie’ was deleted. To be honest, I was not at all surprised.
Those who proudly reported the article in an arrogant tone, I really hope that you can see yourselves through the eyes of the free world, where in the end you would look very brain-damaged. Those idiots I was talking about behind the 3 billion-yuan box office takings—that was you.
You all can all collect a few cents for attacking me, I won’t even be mad. After all, soon you’ll have your fifty cents. Your Party spirit is high, I’m very hopeful!
Anyway, I notice that my other essay ‘If We Continue Like This It’s Not Good for Anyone’ has also been marked for deletion by the Cyberspace Administration of China. If we continue like this, it really won’t be good.
To date, three articles under this public account were deleted, and other two articles were blocked. My apologies to you big cousins who fawn over high-ranking officials.
But I still would like to add one thing. You people are not patriotic. You do our country harm. You pressure others who wish for freedom, justice, and legal rights to abandon the country and homeland against their wills. You hound people to death, and then don’t even honor the departed. You are the worst type of people.
Many good friends have become very dejected this year. Likewise, I have no idea what course to take moving forward. You all would probably would applaud hearing this. I hope you work to preserve peace. Just watch, if the whole country were full of people like you, how long would peace last?
I’m grateful to those who shared my articles, but also to those who hurled abuse. I haven’t deleted any of it, as unsettling as it is. To me and others like me, it all offers a kind of encouragement. […] [Chinese]
Translations by Josh Rudolph and Lotus Leigh, with help from Lisbeth and Samuel Wade.