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AIRDATE - New John Pilger documentary The Coming War on China

ProgrammingKevin Perry

John Pilger
Image - SBS

The Coming War on China – a new feature-length documentary by award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger – will premiere on SBS, Sunday 16 April.

Coming straight after the election of US President Donald Trump, the film is one of John Pilger’s most timely and urgent investigations. As Trump threatens China with a trade war and worse, this documentary is both a timely warning and an inspiring story of people’s resistance.

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 the country in what one strategist calls “a perfect noose”.

Through key interviews – from Pentagon war planners in what is now Donald Trump’s Washington, to members of China’s new political class who rarely feature in Western reports –Pilger’s film challenges the notion of the world’s newest, biggest trading nation as an enemy.

Bringing together rare archival footage and eye-witness accounts, Pilger reveals America’s secret history in the region including the destruction of much of the life in the Marshall Islands by the explosion of the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made nuclear guinea pigs of the population.

The Coming War on China also explores the endurance of the human spirit and the rise of an extraordinary resistance in the region. 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 US military aircraft – Okinawans are challenging the greatest military power in the world, and succeeding.

Across the East China Sea in the Korean island of Jeju, a semi- tropical sanctuary and World Heritage Site declared “an island of world peace”, is one of the biggest military bases in Asia, aimed at China and 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, 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.

Pilger also travels to modern day China for the first time in decades. “Nothing prepared me for the astonishing changes that had taken place”, he observes. Pilger explores its exquisite ironies, including the house in Shanghai where Mao Zedong and his comrades secretly founded the Communist Party of China in 1921. Today you can leave this Communist shrine with your plastic bust of Mao into the embrace of Starbucks, Apple and Cartier stores, and more. Pilger reveals that, in secret messages to Washington, Mao sought repeatedly to form an alliance with the U.S.

Pilger interviews Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist and typical of a new class of outspoken mavericks. A critic of her own country, she rejects out-dated stereotypes.

“Many Americans imagine that Chinese people live a miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever,” she says. “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.”

He also interviews Zhang Weiwei, a close aide to Deng Xiaoping, the 'man who changed China’, about the Tiananmen Square massacre and why China is not a democracy, uncovering some revealing answers.

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. The Coming War on China asks: will all this be allowed to happen peacefully?

The Coming War on China will premiere on SBS, Sunday 16 April.