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Chairman Mao Wasn't at WWII's Cairo Conference. So Why Is He on the Movie Poster?

Original poster of the Cairo Declaration and netizen's spoofed version (via Twitter user @abin5689)

Original poster for “Cairo Declaration” (left) and an online spoof (right) via Twitter user @abin5689

Big-budget film “The Cairo Declaration” is set to hit cinemas all across China on September 3, the same day that Chinese officials have scheduled a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. The movie, produced by August First Film Studio, a production company affiliated with the Chinese military, is meant to push the idea of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) “crucial role” in defending the country against the Japanese invasion between 1937 and 1945.

The Cairo Declaration, which outlined post-war objectives for China, Japan and Korea, was issued by the Allies of World War II during a summit held in Cairo, Egypt, on November 27, 1943. Chiang Kai-shek, a political and military leader of the Republic of China (Taiwan), was present, yet the movie's trailers and posters released in mid-August give the impression that Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong was at the Cairo Conference instead of Chiang.

Director Wen Deguang said that despite the posters, Chiang is a key figure in the movie and the story is based on historical fact. He further explained that the production of the movie took about three months’ time and the crew spent one and a half months working on scenes featuring Chiang and only four days on those featuring Mao.

Despite the difference screen time, the movie trailer still suggests that Mao was behind the scenes in the anti-Japanese war with his opening remark, “The task of communists around the world is to oppose fascism through struggle.”

Netizens have responded to the perceived distortion of history by turning the film's poster featuring Mao into an online meme. Twitter user @Mosendoo created a version with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and pointed to a website where users can generate their own poster spoof:

Since the poster for “The Cairo Declaration” was ruined [by Mao], different versions of the poster have started circulating online. Someone even created an online generator for the Cairo poster, you can upload your own photo and become a great leader!

Many believe that both “The Cairo Declaration” and the September 3 military parade are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's dream of a “national revival” to rewrite the Chinese Communist Party's history in relation to Japan's war against China.

Public figures have spoken out against the party's questionable interpretation of history as the date of the military parade approached. Taiwanese President Ma Yingjeou criticized the movie's posters as a “joke” and stressed that anti-Japanese war efforts were led by the Kuomintang political party of the then newly established Republic of China (Taiwan), with the CCP playing little role.

Yang Jianli, a pro-democracy activist exiled to the United State since the 1989 crackdown on protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, pointed out that during the Cairo Conference in 1943 Mao was busy engaging in a party power struggle during the Yan'an Rectification Movement (1942-1944), through which he established his paramount role within the CCP:

回顾这段历史我们可以看到,当二战中的同盟国与轴心国拼杀到人仰马翻的时候(其中也包括苏联与希特勒的战争),从1941年起,毛泽东东靠阎锡山的屏障,西有盛世才的庇佑,高喊着爱国抗日的口号[…] 其实他将延安变成了一处抗战中的桃花源,在这里,他完全根据自己的需要,对党政军干部重新评估使用,对军队和干部进行彻底而残酷的洗脑,从而在中共历史上第一次形成了党的最高领袖对党和军队的绝对统一领导 […] 1945年初,在延安整风接近四年后,整人整得不亦乐乎的毛泽东发现日本战败的结局要比自己估计的时间提前,于是匆忙结束整风,厚着脸皮向被整者“脱帽道歉”,让他们下山摘桃子,去国共内战的战场上拼杀——要打仗,自然就没时间整人,好在人都已经整过,听话得很,而蒋介石除了嫡系部队之外,却是难以指挥。内战的胜负,仅在这一点上,就可以隐约看出端倪了。

We can see in history that when the Allies and the Axis were killing each other (the war also involved the USSR and Hitler), since 1941 Mao was fenced off from the war by Kuomintang's warlord Yan Xishan and Soviet-backed warlord Sheng Shicai. The struggle against the Japanese invasion remained a slogan […]

In fact, he turned the area of Yan'an into a dreamland where he could evaluate the party's officials according to his own liking. He also brainwashed the army and lther officials to make sure that they would be absolutely loyal to the party under his leadership and established his dictatorship.

[…] in 1945, four years after the Yan'an Rectification Movement had started, Mao found out that the surrender of Japan happened earlier than he had anticipated. He ended the rectification and took off his hat, apologized to those he had persecuted so that they could fight in the civil war [between Kuomintang and the CCP]. After the rectification, the army was very obedient. As for Chiang Kai-shek, he would not keep other warlords under control. By then, he result of the civil war was implicit.

Yang said he hoped the movie would prompt viewers to research the history of the CCP and reflect on the impact of Mao's dictatorship in China and the rest of the world.

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