Ambivalence of entertainment: the Cold War and pro-communist Mandarin cinema

Po Shek Fu, Man Fung Yip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colonial Hong Kong was a transregional hub of Cold War ideological confrontation. The United States and its Chinese ally, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, struggled with Beijing for the hearts of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and around the world. Pro-Communist émigré cinema in the mid-twentieth century was a prime cultural manifestation of this Cold War contest. After an initial period of radicalization and antagonism, the pro-Communist studios in Hong Kong gradually shifted to a moderate approach whose goal was not to undermine British colonial rule or espouse revolutionary ideologies. Rather, the new strategy was one of flexibility and restraint that aimed to maintain a strategic presence in the local film industry and serve as a point of contact for overseas Chinese. Later, with the emergence of two pro-Free China giant studios, Motion Pictures & General Investment Co. Ltd. and Shaw Brothers, the cinematic ecosystem in Hong Kong was significantly altered. In order to hold on to their market presence in an increasingly more competitive environment, pro-Communist film companies embraced a more entertainment-oriented ethos and experimented with various popular genres, while struggling to remain truthful to their ideal of “guiding people to do good.” With in-depth analysis of two popular films by Zhu Shilin, The Dividing Wall (Yibang zhi ge) and Sweet as Honey (Tiantian mimi), this essay seeks to historicize the ways in which the Beijing-sponsored film establishment in 1950s Hong Kong negotiated and balanced a changing set of political, ideological, and commercial interests in pursuit of its strategic mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1014-1032
Number of pages19
JournalInter-Asia Cultural Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023


  • Chang-Feng-Xin
  • Cinematic ecosystem
  • Zhu Shilin
  • cold war
  • march first incident

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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