John Pilger, Emmy and BAFTA award-winning director and journalist, yesterday debuted his new documentary film ‘The Coming War on China’ in an exclusive preview screening by RT.
This feature-length documentary is John Pilger’s 60th film for television and explores the possibility of a new cold war and its nuclear danger. Coming straight after the election of President Trump, the film is one of John Pilger’s most timely and urgent investigations. It is both a warning and an inspiring story of people’s resistance.
“The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable” – John Pilger in The Coming War on China.
Filmed over two years in the Marshall Islands, Japan, Korea, China and the United States, The Coming War on China reveals a build-up to war on the doorstep of China. More than 400 US military bases now encircle China in what one strategist calls “a perfect noose”.
Bringing together rare archive and interviews with witnesses, Pilger reveals America’s secret history in the region – the destruction of much of the life in the Marshall Islands. They were once a paradise, subjected to the explosion of the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made nuclear guinea pigs of the population.
Pilger and his crew chartered a plane to the irradiated island of Bikini where the 1954 Hydrogen Bomb poisoned the environment forever. He reports: “As my aircraft banked low over Bikini atoll, the emerald lagoon beneath me suddenly disappeared into a vast black hole, a deathly void. When I stepped out of the plane, my shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter. Almost everything was irradiated. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations, unbending in the breeze. There were no birds. It was a vision of what the world can expect if two nuclear powers go to war.”
In key interviews from Pentagon war planners, in what is now Donald Trump’s Washington and the undeclared strategy is “perpetual war”, Pilger’s film challenges the notion of the world’s newest, biggest trading nation as an enemy, especially for those members of China’s new political class who rarely feature in Western reports.
Edited in chapters, The Coming War is also about the human spirit and the rise of an extraordinary resistance in faraway places. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, home to 32 US bases – where the population lives along a razor-wired fenceline and beneath the screeching of military aircraft – Okinawans are challenging the greatest military power in the world, and succeeding.
One of the resistance leaders is Fumiko Shimabukuro, aged 87. A survivor of the Second World War, she took refuge in beautiful Henoko Bay, which she is now fighting to save. The Japanese government wants to fill in much of the bay to extend runways for US bombers. “For us,” she told me, “the choice is silence or life.”
Across the East China Sea lies the Korean island of Jeju, a semi-tropical sanctuary and World Heritage Site declared “an island of world peace”. On this island of world peace is one of the biggest military bases in Asia, aimed at China – purpose-built for US aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and missile destroyers.
For almost a decade, the people of Jeju have been peacefully resisting the base. Every day, twice a day, farmers, villagers, priests and supporters from all over the world stage an extraordinary Catholic mass that blocks the gates. Every day, police remove the priests and the worshippers, bodily, and their altar. It is a silent, moving spectacle. One of the leaders, Father Mun Jeong-hyeon, says: “I sing four songs every day at the base. I sing in typhoons – no exception.”
From Jeju, Pilger flew to Shanghai. “When I was last in China,” he says, “the loudest noise I remember was the tinkling of bicycle bells; Mao Zedong had recently died, and the cities seemed dark, forbidding places. Nothing prepared me for the astonishing changes that had taken place.”
He interviews Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist and typical of a new class of outspoken mavericks. Her bestselling book has the ironic title, Socialism Is Great! She grew up during the chaotic and brutal Cultural Revolution and has lived in the US. A critic of her own country, she also rejects outdated stereotypes. “Many Americans imagine,” she said, “that Chinese people live a miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever. The [idea of] the yellow peril has never left them …They have no idea there are some 500 million people being lifted out of poverty.”
China today presents exquisite ironies, not least the house in Shanghai where Mao and his comrades secretly founded the Communist Party of China in 1921. Today, it stands in the heart of a very capitalist shipping district; you walk out of this Communist shrine with your plastic bust of Mao into the embrace of Starbucks, Apple, Cartier.
Eric Li, a Shanghai venture capitalist and social scientist, tells Pilger: “I make the joke: in America you can change political parties, but you can’t change the policies. In China you cannot change the party, but you can change policies. The political changes that have taken place in China this past 66 years have been wider and broader and greater than probably any other major country in living memory.”
The world is shifting east, and America’s dominance is ending. Once subjugated, scorned and impoverished, China is rising inexorably as the world’s banker and builder. Will all this be allowed to happen peacefully? “We need to make America strong again,” says President-elect Donald Trump. “We need to make America great again … and we need victories.”
RT is proud to be showcasing the international broadcast premiere of The Coming War on China from Friday 9 December. The Coming War on China is released in cinemas across Britain on 5 December, starting with a nationwide post-screening satellite Q&A with John Pilger from Picturehouse Central, London. It will have its UK television premiere on ITV at 10:40pm 06 December. A DVD will be available at the same time. The Australian cinema release will be early 2017, followed by a nationwide broadcast on SBS TV.
Running Time: 110 minutes, Rated: 12A