China’s latest military propaganda film appears to show, once again, that the People’s Liberation Army ’s publicity team has a passion for Hollywood blockbuster action movies.
According to some observers, several of the scenes in a new video produced for the PLA Air Force – showing a simulated bombing exercise on an American military base in the Pacific region – look like they were lifted directly from the 2008 Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker and the 1996 action-thriller The Rock .
And according to a source close to the Chinese military, they were.
The person, who asked not to be named, told the South China Morning Post that it was common practice for the PLA’s publicity department to “borrow” from Hollywood films to make their productions look more spectacular.
“Almost all of the officers in the department grew up watching Hollywood movies, so in their minds, American war films have the coolest images,” the source said.
Even though some scenes had been clearly lifted, the PLA was unlikely to face any backlash over copyright infringements, he said.
“There won’t be any intellectual property problems as only a few seconds of footage was used and the PLA film is not for commercial release.”
In 2011, China’s state broadcaster CCTV showed a film about a PLA training exercise that included “borrowed” footage from Top Gun, the 1986 Hollywood film about US fighter pilots starring Tom Cruise.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said people in China were unlikely to care whether the footage was from a Hollywood movie or not as they were more concerned about the central message of the propaganda film: that the PLA would never let any foreign force interfere on the Taiwan issue.
In the film, which was released on Saturday, H-6K long-range bombers are seen flying from bases in western China to the Pacific, where they drop their payloads on a naval base that has more than a passing resemblance to the US facility on the island of Guam.
“But the PLA isn’t focused solely on Guam,” Song said. “The US has strategic bombers deployed at numerous bases across the Asia-Pacific region, including ones in Japan.”
With a combat range of nearly 6,000km (3,700 miles), H-6K bombers are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and long range cruise missiles. They were the PLA’s first strategic bomber and specifically designed to target Taiwan.
Over the past week, they have frequently been seen entering Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday criticised Beijing for ramping up its “intimidation” of the self-ruled island.
Taiwan’s military had recorded 37 sorties by PLA aircraft , two involving H-6 bombers, in which warplanes crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait and entered the island’s ADIZ, she said at a public event in Taipei.
“Beijing needs to show self-restraint and not be so provocative. The mainland’s military activities are cross-strait issues, but also caused regional security problems.”
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong said the PLA film showed an H-6K squadron flying from Lanzhou in northwest China’s Gansu province.
“The Lanzhou-based bomber squadron is the PLA’s most capable nuclear counter-attack force,” he said. “It was responsible for keeping an eye on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.”
Drew Thompson, a former US defence department official with responsibility for managing US relations with mainland China and Taiwan, said the propaganda film was intended as a warning to any country that was within the PLA Air Force’s strike range.
“The messages put out by the People’s Republic of China propaganda machine threaten anyone who opposes [mainland] China or the Communist Party,” he said. “[The footage] warns that the PLA is prepared to use force to settle differences.”
The film was released as Keith Krach, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, was wrapping up his trip to Taiwan. During his visit to the island, he attended the funeral of former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui, who died on July 30 at the age of 97.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.