War Film Depicting Defeat of U.S. Army Tops China's Box Office

“The film’s massive popularity arguably stems from China’s new view of war.”

As tensions rise between China and the U.S., one Chinese film about war is set to become the country’s highest-grossing film of all time. 

The Battle at Lake Changjin is a three-hour-long movie about Chinese soldiers in the Korean War.  It is loosely based on the Battle of Chosin Reservoir—a 17-day military campaign that took place in the late 1950s, right after China entered the war to support North Korea. 

Against all odds, the Chinese soldiers in the film repel American forces and drive them away from a strategic position in what is now the border between China and North Korea. 

As of this writing, the period film grossed $769 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway. The Chinese ticketing portal Maoyan predicts The Battle at Lake Changjin will rake in a total of $843 million.

More Chinese Now Supportive of Military Conflicts?

According to Hollywood Reporter, Battle at Lake Changjin is China’s most expensive film ever produced. It cost the studio $200 million. On October 19, China’s state mouthpiece Global Times reported that the film is set to become the highest-grossing film of all time in the country. 

An opinion piece by The Diplomat suggests Chinese citizens are now more supportive of military conflicts, which could explain the film’s success:  “The film’s massive popularity arguably stems from China’s new view of war.”

The timing of the film is no coincidence. It comes at a time when the Chinese Communist Party aims to drum up nationalist and anti-Western sentiment: China faces intense pushback from the West as it expands its economic and military influence in the region. 


The New York Times reports that China is increasingly rejecting the English language, with Shanghai banning schools from holding final exams on the English language. In 2020, China’s education authority banned the use of foreign books. 

“The Communist Party is intensifying ideological control and nationalistic propaganda, an effort that could turn the clock back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the country was closed off to much of the world and political campaigns overrode economic growth,” wrote the Times

China and the U.S. are currently in the middle of what could be a Cold War. China seeks to become an economic and military superpower, but the U.S. is reluctant to accommodate that rise.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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