More than Just Entertaining: Cinematic Containment
and Asia’s Cold War in Hong Kong, 1949–1959

By Poshek Fu

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.2  (Fall 2018), pp. 1-55

This essay aims to bring attention to the dynamic role of popular culture in Asia’s Cold War by exploring the covert political mobilization and propaganda warfare of Hong Kong Mandarin cinema from around 1946 to 1960, a period characterized by the struggles between Communist China, Nationalist Taiwan, and the United States to win the hearts and minds of Chinese in the region.

Drawing on untapped sources, it discusses what can be called “cinematic containment,” the efforts of US and Taiwan propaganda agents and Hong Kong “Free China” studios to produce films that were more than just entertaining to try to draw audiences away from Communist influence. This brings to light how the global Cold War interacted with local forces in shaping and refashioning the politics of cultural production in Hong Kong and the human responses involved in it.