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Repudiating Antonioni’s Anti-China Film

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #8, Feb. 22, 1974, pp. 13-16.]

The film “China” by the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni is an out-and-out anti-China film. Its appearance is a serious anti-China event and a wild provocation against the Chinese people. All Chinese who have national pride are greatly infuriated to see that this anti-China film attacks Chinese leaders, smears socialist New China, slanders China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and insults the Chinese people. Newspapers in Peking have recently published many articles refuting this anti-China film. Following are three of them, slightly abridged because of space restrictions. —Ed.

Refuting Antonioni’s Slanders Against Linhsien County

by Yang Kuei, First Secretary of Honan Province’s Linhsien
County Committee of the Communist Party of China and Chairman
of the Revolutionary Committee of Linhsien County

HAVING taken part in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and rectify the style of work, Linhsien County like the rest of China has made tremendous achievements in socialist revolution and socialist construction and has brought about the excellent situation of growing prosperity. But a handful of class enemies at home and abroad are not reconciled to their defeat and are doing everything they can to engage in sabotage and create disturbances.

The imperialists, revisionists and reactionaries abroad are in league with monsters and demons in China. In the first half of 1972, Lin Piao’s sworn followers in Honan Province did their best to push the counter-revolutionary revisionist line. They tried to undermine the achievements of Linhsien County as a standard-bearer, vilely attacked the Red Flag Canal, slandered socialist construction in the mountain areas and described the excellent situation in the bleakest terms in their attempt to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism. It was at this time that the imperialist Antonioni came to our Linhsien County in the guise of wanting to present China’s countryside “factually” while actually engaging in activities to oppose China and revolution. In his carefully made anti-China film China, Antonioni resorted to the foulest means to shamelessly slander and attack the socialist countryside in Linhsien County and the poor and lower-middle peasants there. We were filled with anger after seeing this reactionary film. We must strongly rebuff this imperialist’s provocations and completely expose and repudiate this reactionary film.

Antonioni stayed in Linhsien County three and a half days. Instead of showing the socialist countryside’s new look and the tremendous achievements made by the people in carrying out Chairman Mao’s principle of “self-reliance” and “hard struggle,” he did his utmost to malign them by taking shots secretly despite protests, as well as using deception and fabrication.

He showed little interest in the gigantic Red Flag Canal and took very few shots of it. He ignored the prosperous scene in the county after the transformation of its mountains and rivers but chose dry river-beds strewn with rocks. He ignored busy motor traffic on the highways but picked only ox-carts and wheelbarrows. He paid no attention to big and small tractors working in the fields, but chose only a donkey pulling a stone roller. He skipped the stirring sights of collective labour and turned his camera solely on old people and a sick woman. To smear the people of Linhsien, he went so far as to raise the arrogant demand with the Tatsaiyuan Brigade that the cadres get a number of commune members to stage a mock fist fight for him, but was rebuffed. These despicable activities by Antonioni in Linhsien met with resistance and opposition from the local revolutionary masses, who said indignantly: “This fellow has bad intentions. We’ve never seen a foreigner like him who doesn’t want to take pictures of the Red Flag Canal but is only interested in things he thinks useful for his evil intentions.”

The primary school of the Tatsaiyuan Brigade, Chengkuan People’s Commune, has 356 revolutionary teachers and pupils and 35 classrooms. The school buildings are tidy and spacious and furnished with facilities for table tennis and basketball. Located on the east side of a street, the school has a sign at the entrance inscribed “Tatsaiyuan Primary School.” Instead of taking shots of the school itself, Antonioni suddenly appeared when a number of pupils were playing or reading after class in front of an old house across the street, and, brazen-faced, gave long footage to these scenes. He had the impudence to say in his narration: “This is the school of the village.” What is this if not outright fabrication?

For another example, let us talk about the Jentsun People’s Commune which Antonioni visited. After the people’s commune was set up in 1958, the masses persevered in taking the socialist road. They displayed the revolutionary spirit of daring to think and daring to act and struggled against nature to change the backward state of their area. The trunk of the Red Flag Canal runs through the commune. Reservoirs, ponds and pumping stations have been built to form a crisscross irrigation network. The commune has 26 times as much irrigated land as in pre-liberation days. Its grain yield has jumped from 0.75 tons per hectare before liberation to 5.1 tons at present. It has surplus grain instead of lacking grain. It has also made all-round progress in forestry, livestock breeding and side-line occupations. A vigorous revolutionary atmosphere prevails everywhere. Antonioni did not film any of this but deliberately stalked people who were unaware of his intention to film them. In particular, he sought out and took dilapidated walls and blackboard newspapers discarded long ago. Local cadres and people around asked him: “Why do you film a blackboard newspaper long discarded instead of our current blackboard newspaper?” With a guilty conscience, this fellow said in consternation: “Sorry, we’ll certainly cut it when we go back.” But he did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, the film’s narration described this socialist village as an “abandoned, desolate place.”

While on his visit, Antonioni happened upon a farm produce fair. He insisted that the driver stop the car and, even threatening to jump out, turned the camera on this scene without permission. Our peasant fair supplements the socialist collective economy, but Antonioni distorted it as a “free market” and slandered it as “the only gap in the country’s total corectivization.” This is a slander with an ulterior motive against our socialist collective economy.

Vilifying everything, Antonioni represents our new socialist villages as dreary and poor and with difficulties, and then in the narration says with an ulterior motive: This is “China’s first socialist mountain”! Is the Linhsien countryside really like the scenes he showed after his distortion and tailoring? No, absolutely not. Under the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee, the cadres and masses since liberation, and especially since 1958, have brought into full play the superiority of the people’s communes and raised the fighting slogan “Re-arrange the mountains and rivers of Linhsien County.” The 1,500-kilometre-long Red Flag Canal was built after ten years’ hard struggle (1960-69). The irrigated acreage has shot up from 800 hectares before liberation to 40,000 hectares now, and thus ended the situation of water being as valuable as oil. Grain output has jumped from 0.75 tons per hectare before liberation to 4.35 tons now. The county used to depend on the state for 10,000 tons of grain every year, but now it sells the state 20,000 tons of market grain every year. Ninety-five per cent of the communes and brigades now have grain reserves. These facts are a powerful refutation of Antonioni’s anti-China film.

Chairman Mao says: “Only socialism can save China.” We poor and lower-middle peasants of Linhsien are most keenly aware of this teaching. Everyone can see that under the wise leadership of our great leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China, the people of Linhsien County have become the masters of their own destiny and that their lives are getting better and better.

Take the Tatsaiyuan Production Brigade of the Chengkuan People’s Commune for example. Before liberation the poor and lower-middle peasants here lived in the abyss of untold sufferings. Seventy-three peasant households here were driven to begging and 21 persons died of hunger in the 1942 famine. The poor and lower-middle peasants have become masters of their own destiny under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party since liberation. Warmly responding to Chairman Mao’s great call “Get organized,” they advanced from working individually to mutual-aid teams, co-operatives and the people’s commune. Agricultural production has gone up year after year and the commune members’ lives have improved considerably. Since 1958, new houses totalling 1,100 rooms have been built, the brigade has set up a primary school and a middle school and instituted the co-operative medical service. All households without exception have grain reserves, and more than 60 per cent have bank savings. Among them, the poor and lower-middle peasants have 180 bicycles and 85 sewing machines, and all families have electric lighting and loudspeakers linked to the brigade’s broadcasting station. The brigade now presents a lively picture of a new socialist mountain area. No one can negate these solid facts.

The Italian people are friendly towards the Chinese people and happy to see the tremendous achievements the Chinese people have made in socialist revolution and socialist construction and regard these as their own. Antonioni in no way represents them. Having been to Linhsien, friends on the delegation of the Italian Eastern Publishing House in June 1972 said: “After visiting the Red Flag Canal, we’ve come to see how political change has brought about economic change. The people of Linhsien have relied on their own efforts and transformed the backwardness left over thousands of years. This is really unimaginable.”

It is clear that different persons with different stands and viewpoints draw different conclusions!

Proceeding from his anti-China and counter-revolutionary stand, Antonioni did his utmost to fling mud at China’s great achievements in socialist revolution and construction, and to negate the tremendous achievements of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and prepare public opinion for capitalist restoration. In so doing, he serves the needs of imperialism, especially Soviet revisionist social-imperialism.

No Distortion of Tien An Men Is Permitted

By Commanders and Fighters of the P.L.A. Company Guarding Tien An Men

WE are fighters who guard Tien An Men day and night. After seeing the anti-China film China made by the Italian director Antonioni, we are extremely indignant at this imperialist element’s vicious attack on our socialist country and his wanton distortion and vilification of Tien An Men Square.

Tien An Men Square is the place the Chinese people of all nationalities boundlessly respect. It is here that Chairman Mao raised the first five-star red flag and declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Here Chairman Mao reviewed the parades by revolutionary people on many occasions and issued the great call to support the world revolution. Here Chairman Mao received Red Guards on eight occasions, which pushed forward the sweeping Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.... Obviously Antonioni knew what place Tien An Men has in the hearts of the Chinese people, but he had the audacity to defame Tien An Men in an unbridled way. It is apparent that he intended to slander our great motherland. The Chinese people absolutely cannot tolerate this!

Tien An Men Square is grand, magnificent. When one looks up at Tien An Men Gate, one sees a portrait of Chairman Mao radiant with a kind and warm expression and the state emblem of the People’s Republic of China shining bright. But in Antonioni’s film neither the panorama of the Square nor the magnificence of Tien An Men Gate is seen. The film was taken on a bright sunny day in May. Nevertheless, the Square is shown in dim and dreary colours. The grand Square is presented in a disorderly fashion as if it were a market place of noisy confusion. Is this a result of Antonioni’s neglect or unique interest? Of course not. It is the result of a despicable technique with vicious intention, completely the outcome of this anti-China imperialist element’s extreme hatred for the Chinese revolution and strong hostility toward the Chinese people.

Most of the scenes at Tien An Men Square in the film show people waiting for their picture to be taken. As we know, every day there are large numbers of workers, peasants and P.L.A. men coming from all over the country to pay their respects to the great Tien An Men, where they express their love for Chairman Mao and their determination to dedicate themselves to revolution. To have a picture taken at Tien An Men Square as a memorial, many queue up waiting for the photographer. This is a reflection of their deep revolutionary feelings. But with bad intentions, Antonioni, instead of showing this reality, took shots only of people’s clothing, movement and expressions: here, someone’s ruffled hair; there, people peering, their eyes dazzled by the sun; one moment, their sleeves; another, their trousers.... He racked his brain to get such close-ups in an attempt to distort the people’s image and uglify their spiritual outlook. This is indeed venomous to the last degree!

This out-and-out anti-China imperialist agent Antonioni says in the narration that “for the Chinese, this great silent space is the centre of the world” and “China is the country at the centre.” This is a vicious slander, intended to drive a wedge between the Chinese and other peoples. The Chinese people have all along adhered to Chairman Mao’s teachings that we Chinese people should “get rid of great-power chauvinism resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely” and “never seek hegemony.” We have consistently advocated that all nations in the world, big or small, should be equal and we have resolutely opposed the superpowers’ power politics and hegemonism. We never regard China as “the centre of the world” or “the country at the centre.” In imposing this allegation on the Chinese people, Antonioni’s criminal purpose is to create doubt and distrust between the Chinese and other peoples and undermine their solidarity and friendship. But this despicable trick is futile.

All the lies and slanders of Antonioni cannot dim the brilliance of our great motherland. On the contrary, they plainly show his ugly features as an anti-China buffoon. Along the course charted by their great leader Chairman Mao, the Chinese people will triumphantly march forward with firm steps amidst the vile ravings of the reactionaries.

Textile Workers’ Protest

By Fang Chun-sheng, Peking No. 3 Cotton Mill

ANTONIONI came to our mill with a camera team in late May 1972. His purpose was to find fault and track down possibilities for pictures on the dark side. He rushed around one workshop, his camera focusing on the flying cotton fluff. The sweeper was sweeping the floor when he came to the drawing-roving room. He told her to stop, threatening that if she didn’t he would not shoot. While he was eating in the canteen, he said provokingly that he already had “eaten enough cotton fluff.”

Antonioni racked his brain looking for “chances” to fabricate material slandering the Chinese people. Instead of taking shots of pupils in the classroom in our factory-run primary school, he filmed the children running out of the classroom after a class. His behaviour was more disgusting when he visited workers’ living quarters. He went to a house but refused to shoot, saying that it was too tidy. He went to the next and again refused to-use the camera, saying there was a sofa in the room. On entering the kitchen of a third, he saw an empty soya sauce bottle and a slice of meat. Thinking he had found the scene he wanted, he said: “Hurry up, otherwise they’ll take them away.” He even asked others to photograph him lying impolitely on the bed making revolting gestures and even running his hand underneath the bed sheet. His despicable behaviour met with firm opposition and protest by our workers right in the mill.

Like all reactionaries, Antonioni has inveterate hatred for the revolutionary cause of the Chinese people. He tried his utmost to sully China. At one study meeting, we workers expressed our militant will to “spin cloth for the revolution” and “to contribute to the world revolution.” Antonioni said that the talks were “repetitive and monotonous,” and “not a true discussion.” What nonsense! In the mind of this reactionary, speaking of revolution is “monotonous.” Does this mean that only talking about making money is not “monotonous”? This only reveals the true counter-revolutionary features of this so-called “Left” director. Antonioni’s slander is not only a great insult to the Chinese workers but he meant to say that there is no democracy in New China, there is no freedom of speech. What absurdities!

Ours is a country of the proletarian dictatorship. As, masters of our country, we the working class and people of the whole country enjoy full democracy. We can fully express our views regarding the major issues in the factory, the country and the world. Any foreigner who has been to China, so long as he respects the facts, has a deep impression of the democratic life enjoyed by the Chinese people, especially the widely-used weapon—airing views freely, writing big-character posters and holding great debates. Why did Antonioni shut his eyes to all these? This only shows him to be a very stubborn reactionary.

In this reactionary film, Antonioni viciously slandered China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, saying that it had “thrown the system of production into confusion.” These are the words often used by the imperialists, revisionists, and reactionaries to attack the Cultural Revolution. Take our textile mill as an example. After criticizing the revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao during the Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and rectify the style of work, a vigorous atmosphere prevailed in the whole mill by implementing the “Constitution of the Anshan Iron and Steel Company” and launching the movement “In industry, learn from Taching.” Production has increased year by year. Total output value in 1973 was 29.13 per cent higher than in 1965, the year before the Cultural Revolution started. This was accompanied by improved quality and increased variety. Our mill’s achievements since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution are an epitome of China’s industrial progress.

Today, our motherland is thriving. Socialism is everywhere advancing triumphantly. The slanders and attacks of a handful of imperialists and social-imperialists will not in the least harm our great socialist motherland.

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