An upcoming Chinese film about a landmark World War II summit attracted ridicule online due to its curious choice of leading character.

Cairo Declaration, produced by the PLA-run August First Film Studio, is the story of the eponymous communique released by China’s wartime leader Chiang Kai-shek and allies Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt at the conclusion of the 1943 Cairo Conference.

Four posters released to promote the film each depict leaders from the main Allied nations. Instead of wartime leader Chiang Kai-shek, however, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong is featured as the Chinese representative, implying that the Communist leader attended the meeting.

The other leaders depicted are Soviet premier Josef Stalin, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Churchill and FDR on the Cairo Declaration film posters.

Professor Lu Fang-shang, director of Taiwan’s national historical institute Academica Historica called the implication of Mao’s involvement “ridiculous.”

“Only by using less political language and more academic language can [the film] return to historical reality,” Lu told Taiwanese media on Saturday.

Netizens reacted to the posters by making their own versions featuring other historical or fictional characters who had nothing to do with the declaration.

Cairo Declaration film poster parodies. Photo: Apple Daily.

website was created by Hong Kong-based developers ThisABA that allows users to transpose images of anyone onto the poster to create their own parodies.

Photo: 人人開鑼宣言.

Web users have also compared the posters series to a 2014 series of paintings by Chinese artist Shi Xining, who lampooned Mao’s omnipresence in the official historical narrative of his country by transposing him into various historical events where he does not belong.

In Cairo, the Allied leaders announced their determination to continue fighting Japan until unconditional surrender was achieved.

When the “Three Great Allies” met in the Egyptian capital in late November to set goals for the post-war order, Mao Zedong was still in the remote Communist stronghold of Yan’an, Shaanxi.

The declaration outlined the Allied leaders’ determination to strip Japan of all territories gained through aggression, restricting their sovereignty to the country’s four main islands and returning Manchuria, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Chinese sovereignty.

Allied leaders in Cairo. Photo: Wikicommons.

Although Mao’s forces expelled Chiang’s Kuomintang government from the mainland soon after the war’s conclusion, Beijing continued to refer to the Cairo Declaration as proof that both Taiwan and the disputed East China Sea islands known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands should be handed to Beijing.

Promotional material for the “epic blockbuster” are not the only element of the film suspected of rewriting history. According to mainland news, Mao Zedong’s screen time eclipses that of Chiang Kai-shek throughout the movie.

Updated 08/18 to credit 人人開鑼宣言 developer.


Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.