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Golden Globe Winner’s Comments Triggered another Wave of Nationalist Sentiment in China

On February 28, Chloe Zhao won Best Director at the 78th Golden Globe for her movie “Nomadland.” Born in Beijing in 1982, Zhao became the second female director in history to win this honor and the first Asian director to win the Golden Globe after Ang Lee. People on the Chinese social media and the state media cheered and praised Zhao. People’s Daily even called her “the pride of China.” However, the praise quickly took a sharp turn because people found a couple of prior interviews Zhao had in which she was accused of making negative comments about China.

In 2013, Filmmaker magazine interview Zhao. When asked why she picked a Native American story for her first film, she stated, “When I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere. you felt like you were never going to be able to get out. A lot of information I received when I was young was not true; I became very rebellious toward my family and my background.” In another interview with an Australian media in 2020, Zhao said, “The U.S. is now my country.”

People’s nationalist sentimentality exploded on Chinese social media. They started calling Zhao “anti-China,” or “traitor director.” On social media, they even called for a boycott of “Nomadland.” A research center affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences posted a comment on social media saying, “Let’s not praise Chloe Zhao for winning the Golden Globe Best Director just yet. First, we had better find out what her real attitude towards China is.”

On March 5, Sina Weibo took Nomadland down from its top search list. Chinese movie site “Douban” removed the Chinese version of the Nomadland poster and deleted its release date in China.

Back in 2017, a domestic produced movie, “Wolf Warriors 2,” which had a strong patriotism theme, was released. It set a record of over 5 billion (US$770 million) in box office revenue in China. The nationalist theme in the movie aligned perfectly with the CCP’s agenda: China is on the rise and is in conflict with Western ideology. There was no criticism of the movie in the news media. The China Film Bureau has extended the screening period to 95 days.

The CCP has always used patriotism as the official narrative for love of the party and support of its rule. Patriotism is often used in the context of nationalism when the CCP needs to incite xenophobia or suppress those who agree with western values.

1. Boxun, March 8, 2021
2., March 1, 2021