The Founding of a Republic

The Founding of a Republic is a Chinese historical drama produced in 2009 to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and was made to portray the final years of the Chinese Communist Revolution that followed the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). This film was co-directed by Huang Jianxin and Han Sanping, and includes many famous actors such as Andy Lau, Ge You, as well as other directors such as Jiang Wen, and Chen Kaige. The main protagonists Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek were played by highly renowned actors, Tang Guoqiang and Zhang Guoli. One of the purposes of this movie aside from reenacting the events of the Chinese Communist Revolution was to also attract a younger audience to view films that revolved around government propaganda, which they aim to accomplish by including famous actors that would draw the attention of the youth.[4] According to the executive at one of China's top multiplex chains, this film is also unique because the film unusually marries "the core of an 'ethically inspiring' film with commercial packaging.".[4] Additionally, this is the first zhuxuanlu (主旋律; i.e. propaganda) film to work solely with cinematic audio-visual methods to achieve its political and ideological goals. It is a milestone in that since its production in 2009, the distinction between zhuxuanlu and commercial film has become blurred; they have become primarily indistinguishable from each other.[5] This film was released on September 16, 2009, in mainland China and during its release, it had a tremendous amount of support from the Communist Party.

The Founding of a Republic
The Founding of a Republic - poster.jpg
Film poster
MandarinJiàngúo Dà Yè
CantoneseGin3 gwok3 Daai6 Jip6
Directed byHuang Jianxin
Han Sanping
Written byChen Baoguang
Wang Xingdong
Produced byHuang Jianxin
Han Sanping
StarringTang Guoqiang
Zhang Guoli
Xu Qing
Liu Jing
Chen Kun
Wang Wufu
CinematographyZhao Xiaoshi
Edited byDerek Hui
Xu Hongyu
Music byShu Nan
China Film Group
Shanghai Film Studio
Media Asia Films
Emperor Motion Pictures
Universe Entertainment
Polybona Films
China Movie Channel
Beijing Guoli Changsheng Movies & TV Productions
Beijing Hualu Baina Film & TV Production
Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation
DMG Entertainment
Beijing Xinbaoyuan Movie & TV Investment
Distributed byChina Film Group
Beijing Polybona Film Distribution (China)
Universe Films Distribution (Hong Kong)
Release date
  • 16 September 2009 (2009-09-16)
Running time
138 minutes
Budget$8.8–$10 million
Box officeUS$62.5 million[1][2]
RMB¥420 million[3]


In 1945 after the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong and other members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) travel to Chongqing to meet with Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang (KMT). This meeting aims to consider a peace negotiation between the two parties and hopefully discuss the beginning of a democratic nation. With assistance from the China Democratic League, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek signed the Double Tenth Agreement on October 10, 1945. Both parties agreed to halt the civil war and establish a multi-party government within China.

The following year, the Nationalist government relocated to Nanjing(Nanking), and the KMT broke the Double Tenth Agreement, which led the civil war to resume. In July 1947 and onwards, the People's Liberation Army changed its tactics from strategic defense to offense into regions under KMT rule, beginning the process of liberating China. During this time, Chiang Kai-shek called for a National Assembly in Nanjing, where he was elected as the first President of the Republic of China (ROC). His elected vice president was Li Zongren, a known rival within the party. In May 1948, the CPC declared the opening of a "War of Liberation" against Chiang's ROC government, with many other political parties responding to the call and taking the CPC's side, including the China Democratic League, the Revolutionary Committee (China) and other political figures such as Zhang Lan, Soong Ching-ling and Li Jishen. After numerous victories for the CPC within China's central and southern sectors, Chiang Kai-shek is forced to resign as president, and his forces retreat to Taiwan in December 1949. On October 1, 1949, Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China, with Beijing, formally named Beiping, as its capital, marking the start of a new era for China.


The Founding of a Republic, is a historical drama that is shot in many locations including Tianjin, Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing to re-create historical events during the Chinese Communist Revolution.[6] The production of this film was commissioned by China's film regulator, the China Film Administration (CFA), and was produced by the publicly funded China Film Group (CFG).[4] This film was co-directed by Huang Jianxin and Han Sanping, the chairman of the China Film Group, and includes many famous actors including Andy Lau, Ge You, Hu Jun, Leon Lai, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Zhao Wei, as well as other directors such as Jiang Wen, Chen Kaige, and John Woo. The main protagonists were played by highly renowned actors, Tang Guoqiang and Zhang Guoli, who played Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. One interesting aspect of this film was that a CFH spokesman revealed that many of the stars that appeared in the film waived their fee, which kept the film's budget quite modest.[4] The initial budget of the film was 30 million Yuan (US$4.7 million),[6] however, the finalized cost was 60-70 million Yuan, which is the equivalent of US 8.8-10 million dollars.[4]

Critical responseEdit

Positive responsesEdit

The film was a massive financial success in mainland China, earning 420 million yuan[3] and eventually becoming the highest-grossing Chinese-made film ever for a brief time until it was surpassed the following year by Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly (2010).

Many critics also recognized how The Founding of a Republic has evolved public state-narrated presentation of past historical figures and events. For example, many applauded the film for its more “objective” retelling of some characters, such as Chiang Kai-shek, who is characterized in a more sympathetic light compared to past movies.[7] As Gloria and M.E. Davies have emphasized, many online commentators, “praised the film's makers for departing from former 'good vs. evil' representations of Mao and Chiang to emphasize instead the contingencies of war that led the Communists to victory”.[8] Similarly, the film was commended by viewers for its amplified representation of other minority party leaders, such as Zhang Lan, Chairman of the China Democratic League, for the demonstrated significance of their role in the nation's foundation.

Negative responsesEdit

Even though the film made some efforts to highlight history as an honest struggle for democracy, many other commentators felt disappointed that the movie offered a distorted revisionist theme of the nation's history and the CCP’s full politics. As G and M.E. Davies highlighted, the film seemed to be more focused on presenting a “historical romp rather than a disciplined treatment of the subject”.[8] Further critics such as the former editor of the Southern Weekend, Chiang Ping, have called out the film for highlighting “the limits of the contemporary Party-guided commercial repackaging of Chinese history”.[3]

Eventually, the Chinese film rating site Douban had to disable the rating feature for The Founding of a Republic, as well as the other films within the trilogy, because of their negative impact.[3][9]

In response to some reactions outside Mainland China, Huang Jianxin, the film's co-director, "has said it was unfair to describe The Founding of a Republic as propaganda since modern Chinese audience was too sophisticated to swallow a simplistic rendering of history."[10]


Main figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Tang Guoqiang Mao Zedong Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), later Chairman of the PRC Central People's Government
Zhang Guoli Chiang Kai-shek President of the Republic of China (ROC), Director-General of the Kuomintang (KMT)
Xu Qing Soong Ching-ling Sun Yat-sen's wife; later Vice President of the People's Republic of China (PRC)
Liu Jing Zhou Enlai Vice Chairman of the CPC, later Premier of the PRC
Chen Kun Chiang Ching-kuo Chiang Kai-shek's son; Youth League of the Three People's Principles leader, later President of the ROC
Wang Wufu Zhu De Commander-in-chief of the Red Army, later Vice Chairman of the PRC
Wang Xueqi Li Zongren Vice President of the ROC
Liu Sha Liu Shaoqi CPC Central Committee secretary, later President of the PRC
Wang Jian Ren Bishi CPC Central Committee secretary
Jin Xin Li Jishen NRA general, later Vice Chairman of the PRC
Wang Bing Zhang Lan Chairman of the China Democratic League, later Vice Chairman of the PRC
Vivian Wu Soong Mei-ling Chiang Kai-shek's wife and Soong Ching-ling's sister; later First Lady of the ROC
Xiu Zongdi Fu Zuoyi Chairman of Chahar government, later PRC Water Resources Minister

Chinese Communist Party figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Huang Wei Deng Yingchao Zhou Enlai's wife; later CPPCC Chairwoman
Shi Xin Deng Xiaoping CPC Central Committee secretary, later Chairman of the CMC
Zong Liqun Peng Dehuai Second-in-command of the Red Army, later Vice Chairman of the CMC
You Liping Lin Biao Red Army general, later Vice Chairman of the PRC
Che Xiaotong Liu Bocheng Red Army general, later Marshal of the PLA, nicknamed The One-eyed Dragon
Zhao Yong He Long Red Army general, later Marshal of the PLA and Vice Premier of the PRC
Gu Wei Chen Yi Red Army general, later Foreign Minister of the PRC
Sun Jitang Luo Ronghuan Red Army general, later Marshal of the PLA, served as a Vice Chair of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
Wang Jun Xu Xiangqian Red Army general, later one of the Ten Marshals of the PLA
Ao Yang Nie Rongzhen Red Army general, later Marshal of the PLA, commanded the Northern China Military Region during the Chinese Civil War
Ye Jin Ye Jianying Red Army general, later Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Committee
Hou Yong Chen Geng Red Army general, served as a spy in the National Revolutionary Army for 6 years
Zhao Ningyu Liu Yalou Red Army general, served as the inaugural commander-in-chief of the PLA Air Force
Zhang Erdan Jiang Qing Mao Zedong's wife
Xie Gang Gao Gang Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Committee, later Vice Chairman of the State Planning Commission
Wang Huaying Pan Hannian CPC politician, later Deputy Mayor of Shanghai
Huang Xiaoming Li Yinqiao [zh] Mao Zedong's chief bodyguard
Ma Yue Yan Changling Mao Zedong's chief bodyguard
Donnie Yen Tian Han Lyricist for March of the Volunteers, later member of the PRC Culture Ministry
Xu Fan Liao Mengxing Liao Zhongkai and He Xiangning's daughter; Soong Ching-ling's secretary, later member of the All-China Women's Federation
Chen Hao Fu Dongju Fu Zuoyi's daughter; People's Daily reporter
Chen Daoming Yan Jinwen Deputy leader of Shanghai Investigative Branch of State Secrets Department
Zhang Ziyi Gong Peng PRC Foreign Affairs Ministry official

Kuomintang figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Leon Lai Cai Tingkai NRA general, later CPC member
Chen Kaige Feng Yuxiang Chiang Kai-shek's sworn brother, NRA general, Vice President of National Military Council
Jiang Wen Mao Renfeng Head of BIS
Hu Jun Gu Zhutong Commander-in-chief of NRA; later Chief of staff of NRA
Andy Lau Yu Jishi NRA general, served with distinction during the Battle of Shanghai
Chen Baoguo Zhou Zhirou [zh] NRA Air Force general
Jet Li Chen Shaokuan NRA Navy admiral, later NPC member
Xiao Wenge He Yingqin Politician and one of the most senior generals of the KMT during Republic of China
You Yong Bai Chongxi NRA general of Hui ethnicity and of the Muslim faith
Li Qiang [zh] Chen Cheng NRA general, later Vice President of the Republic of China
Yang Xiaodan Zhang Zhizhong NRA general, later CPC member
Tong Dawei Kung Ling-kan Kung Hsiang-hsi and Soong Ai-ling's son
Cao Kefan Wu Kuo-chen Mayor of Shanghai, later Governor of Taiwan Province
Zhong Xinghuo Huang Shaoxiong Vice President of Control Yuan, later NPC member
Xia Gang Shao Lizi [zh] NRA secretary, later NPC member
Ding Zhicheng Lu Guangsheng BIS agent
Tao Zeru Wu Tiecheng Vice President of Legislative Yuan, later Senior Advisor to the Office of the President of the ROC
Xu Huanshan Yu Youren President of Control Yuan
Zhao Xiaoshi Sun Fo Sun Yat-sen's son; President of Legislative Yuan
Sun Xing Du Yuming NRA general, defeating the Communist general Lin Biao twice at Siping
Lin Dongfu Gan Jiehou [zh] Li Zongren's private secretariat representative
Ye Xiaojian Dai Jitao President of Examination Yuan
Zhang Hanyu Liu Congwen [zh] KMT spy as an undercover agent in the Chinese Communist Party

China Democratic League figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Ge Cunzhuang Tan Pingshan KMT Revolutionary Committee member
Zhang Shizhong Shen Junru CDL member, later President of the PRC Supreme People's Court
Bi Yanjun Luo Longji CDL member, later CPC member
Wu Gang Wen Yiduo Poet, CDL member
Qiao Lisheng Guo Moruo Author, poet, historian, archaeologist; later President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Deng Chao Xu Beihong Artist, later President of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts
Li Bin He Xiangning Artist, CDL member, later CPC member
Zhang Qiufang Li Dequan Feng Yuxiang's wife; member of the KMT Revolutionary Committee, later PRC Health Minister
Liu Yiwei Li Huang Chinese Youth Party founder

Other notable historical figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Feng Xiaogang Du Yuesheng Shanghai Green Gang boss
John Woo Liu Wenhui Sichuan warlord
Feng Yuanzheng Phillip Fugh [zh] John Leighton Stuart's personal assistant

Foreign political figuresEdit

Actor Role Description
Aleksandr Pavlov Joseph Stalin Soviet Union leader
Donald Eugene McCoy George C. Marshall United States military leader, later Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense
Donald Freeman Patrick J. Hurley United States Ambassador to China
Leslin H Collings John Leighton Stuart United States Ambassador to China, President of Yenching University

Fictional charactersEdit

Actor Role
Sun Honglei Hu Liwei, Central Daily News reporter
Fan Wei Guo Bencai, Mao Zedong's cook
Liu Ye Red Army old soldier
Ge You Red Army Fourth Division leader
Wang Baoqiang Red Army Fourth Division soldiers
Wang Xuebing
Eva Huang Xinhua News Agency broadcaster
Jackie Chan Reporter interviewing Li Jishen
Chen Hong Reporter interviewing Zhang Lan
Li Youbin Newspaper agency head
Zhang Jianya Chiang Kai-shek's deputy
Lian Jin Zhou Zhirou's deputy
Sun Xing Yu Jishi's deputy
Guo Xiaodong NRA officer
Liu Ye KMT police officers
Huang Zixuan
Guo Degang Cameraman
Zhang Shen Translator accompanying Liu Shaoqi to the Soviet Union
Gong Beibi Red Army female soldiers
He Lin
Yang Ruoxi
Che Yongli
Tony Leung Ka-fai CPPCC members
Feng Gong
Zhao Wei
Miao Pu
Dong Xuan
Chen Shu
Ning Jing
Shen Aojun
Wang Yajie
Zhao Baoyue
Wang Fuli

Controversy surrounding actors' nationalitiesEdit

Before the release of the film, news had circulated that 21 actors in the film, including Chen Kaige and Chen Hong, are foreign nationals.[11] Particularly due to the film's popularity and connection to the sixtieth anniversary of the People's Republic of China, this controversy quickly attracted large media attention.

Some critics, such as Shanghai writer Han Han, have pointed to the film's strong nationalist themes to highlight the irony of foreign nationals' involvement, especially when understanding how “the communist ideals of the film might translate into today’s world”.[3] On September 17, 2009, National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) spokesman Zhu Hong formally stated that Tang Guoqiang and the other ten main actors of The Founding of a Republic are in fact Chinese nationals. Zhu Hong said in a question-and-answer session that the other actors in the film were all guest stars, and the vast majority were Chinese nationals, thus assuring that the film is in line with the "regulations for employing foreign creators to participate in the filming of domestic films" and that the main actors in Chinese films do not exceed one-third of the provisions of foreign personnel.[12]

Award and nominationsEdit

Award Name Award Award Winner result
30th Hundred Flowers Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Han SanpingHuang Jianxin Nominated
Best Actor Zhang Guoli Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Xu Qing Won
29th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Asian Film Nominated
10th Changchun Film Festival Golden Deer Award (Best Film) Won
17th Beijing College Student Film Festival Outstanding Contribution Award Won
19th Shanghai Film Critics Awards Film of Merit Won
5th Chinese American Film Festival outstanding film award Won
1st Macau International Movie Festival Best Supporting Actress Xu Qing Won
28th Golden Rooster Awards Best Sound Won


  • When asked in an interview why he made the film, director Han Sanping said, "When Zhang Heping (former vice chairman of the Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) called me, he wanted me to direct the film, and he gave many reasons. But what finally convinced me was that he said, ‘It's the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China, so I should really come to the front line to give a little power and leave a memento.’ Finally, the leaders of the Film Administration and Zhao Shi, deputy director of the General Administration, decided to let me be the general director and do my best to make the film." At the same time, he said, "Now if I were to categorize The Founding of a Republic, I would say it is a Chinese ‘heroic epic film’.”[13]
  • After filming The Soong Sisters, Wu Junmei had resolved never to play Soong Mei-ling again. One important reason was that when she views the finished film and saw that the scenes "Xi'an Incident" and "Congress Speech" were cut, Wu Junmei felt that the character of Soong Mei-ling in the film had deviated from the script she had seen at the beginning. In addition, she felt Soong Mei-ling is a very difficult character, to an extent that she "grows more unconfident as the filming progresses". However, after 12 years of accumulating life experience, she reprised her role as Soong Mei-ling in The Founding of a Republic.[14]
  • This is the 14th time that Tang Guoqiang has played Mao Zedong on the screen since 1996. Tang Guoqiang was 56 years old when the film was shot, and Mao Zedong was exactly 56 years old in 1949. After many years, Tang is very much in Mao's element, both in terms of temperament and image.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ (in Chinese) 2009 Yearly Box Office Ranking for Mainland China
  2. ^ Total Gross: The Founding of a Republic (excluding Mainland China)
  3. ^ a b c d e VEG, SEBASTIAN (2012). "Propaganda and Pastiche: Visions of Mao in Founding of a Republic, Beginning of the Great Revival, and Let the Bullets Fly". China Perspectives. 2 (90): 41–53. ISSN 2070-3449. JSTOR 24055461.
  4. ^ a b c d e Lee, Min (3 September 2009). "China injects star power into anniversary film".
  5. ^ Wolte, I. (2018). Persuasive communication in Chinese historical film - The Founding of a Republic as a milestone. In H.-y. Peng (Ed.), & E. Raidel (Ed.), The Politics of Memory in Sinophone Cinemas and Image Culture - Alternative Archives (pp. 32-45). London: Routledge
  6. ^ a b "建国大业_幕后花絮_1905电影网". (in Chinese). Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  7. ^ "蒋孝严盛赞《建国大业》 称中共对历史评价客观——中新网". 18 November 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b Davis, Gloria; Davis, M.E. "Filmed Founding Myths | China Heritage Quarterly". Retrieved 12 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Yuan, Li (5 October 2019). "China Masters Political Propaganda for the Instagram Age". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  10. ^ Foster, Peter (17 September 2009). "Epic film The Founding of a Republic marks 60 years of Chinese Communism". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  11. ^ "《建国大业》有21名改国籍导演演员 网友:真讽刺——中新网". 12 August 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Wang, Yi (18 September 2009). "National Radio and Television Administration Announced: "The Founding of the Republic" Starring All Chinese Nationals". Legal Evening News. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  13. ^ Zhang, Zhongjiang (18 September 2009). "韩三平的电影观:《建国大业》是"英雄史诗片"——中新网". Retrieved 13 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Zhang, Haochong (30 September 2009). "Wu Junmei plays Song Meiling again after 12 years". SCREEN世界电影之窗: 44–46.
  15. ^ Han, Kun (30 September 2009). "The Founding of a Republic - A Gathering of Stars". SCREEN世界电影之窗: 49–51.

External linksEdit