Representations of History in Chinese Film and Television


Kaiguo Dadian
(The Birth of New China)


(Feature Film, PR China, 1989)


The movie “The Birth of New China“ (Kaiguo Dadian 开国大典), directed by the well-known couple Li Qiankuan 李前宽 and Xiao Guiyun 肖桂云 and produced by Changchun Film Studios, was launched in 1989 to officially commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st, 1949. The movie is a historical epic that depicts major historical events leading to the establishment of the new state, such as the last battles of the civil war; the resignation of Jiang Jieshi 蒋介石 (= Chiang Kaishek) as president of the Republic of China on January 21st, 1949; the taking-over of Li Zongren 李宗仁; the failure of the last peace negotiations in April, 1949; and the retreat of the Nationalists to Taiwan. The movie ends with Chairman Mao Zedong’s 毛泽东 formally declaring the founding of the People’s Republic.

Besides depicting historical milestones of the last months of the revolution, the movie also draws the different characters involved in these great events in some detail. Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi, leader of the Nationalist Party (GMD), are shown not only as great politicians, but also as interacting with their comrades and families.

The movie was designed for celebrating the achievements of the CCP and for bolstering its legitimacy to rule (which had been questioned the same year in spring – when the film production was well under way – by the demonstrators on Tian’anmen square, the place where the founding of the People’s Republic had been declared 40 years earlier). The film, launched on October 1st, was highly praised in the official media and received several awards the following year.

For some background information on the film and its production see here. For a synopsis of the film please see here. For comments please contact us .



© 2007 Gotelind Müller-Saini