They Chose China

Ratings: 8.47/10 from 133 users.

They Chose ChinaOscar nominated filmmaker Shuibo Wang aims his camera at the astonishing story of 21 American POWs who, after the Korean War ended, chose to live in China instead of returning the USA.

Using rare archival footage, excerpts from American and Chinese TV programs, as well as period and contemporary interviews, They Chose China chronicles the fascinating history of this group of young Americans who were hailed in China as "peace fighters" and denounced in America as "turncoats" and "traitors."

U.S. media claimed that these young POW's had been "brainwashed" by the Chinese communists. The film shows conditions inside these Chinese camps, featuring never-before-seen footage, plus contemporary interviews with some of the camps' Chinese translators, instructors, lecturers, and officers.

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3 years ago

A movie entitled "They Chose China" made by a guy "who chose Canada" and his major achievement cited by Chinese media is an Oscar nomination for this movie in which he saying US threatened "his country" which the director abandoned with his own free will. Use footage from Chinese communist propaganda film without questioning and picture China as a paradise in early 1950s (BTW, at the same time, a man-made famine starved millions of Chinese to death and the director did not mention it but vaguely put the blame on Soviet Union). One fact is that there are 21 American choosing China but there were more than 14,000 Chinese choosing Taiwan after Korean War. Not sure if the director will consider these Chinese heroes. It is very easy to find Chinese patriots outside China who furiously defended their motherland's image and cannot wait to be naturalized at the same time.

3 years ago

Why the 21 Americans chose China? After watching the video, you get an impression that the American media and politicians were primitive, one dimensional and extreme. All they knew to do was accusing others of being turncoats, traitors, weaklings, reds and commies. On the other hand, the Chinese were trying to understand the soldiers and treated them as young students to be equipped with logical thinking and scientific methods. Look how well Hawkins and Adams could articulate their points and offer insight in world events. Mike Wallace sounded like a simpleton who only knew to stick labels, while Hawkins accurately foretold the rise of China and the need for China-US cooperation. Hawkins had more foresight than most Americans back in 1957. It showed the effectiveness of the Chinese education system.

9 years ago

This was a really great documentary. The narrator is dry, and initially this is why I avoided it after tuning in for a couple minutes. But stick with it, it's great.
It touches on a lot of big themes but still remained a human story. That's what I really enjoyed about it, you have all these Cold War backdrops, the politics, the security fears, the culture clash and so on...(I also like how they said "converted to Communism"...made me chuckle) but with the human side to it all. Actual people who lived in what news headlines would point out as a peculiar circumstance of the Cold War.

S de Vere
9 years ago

They chose to stay in China because they co-operated with the Chinese/North Korean jailers and would have rightly faced military justice if they returned to the USA

9 years ago

An earlier form of Bradley Manning. Great doco!

10 years ago

Too few Americans have passports, as they are not all that interested in visiting other cultures. They are therefore more vulnerable to the propaganda churned out by the American state. And the more the state's international influence decreases, the more propaganda it has to produce. So Chavez is a dictator and the Venezuelans, who are largely happy with him, are the victims of brainwashing. China is a commie police state, and all Chinese are at high risk of victimization by China's lack of human rights.

But given the last five years of economic hardship, the last 12 years under the PATRIOT Act, a totally dysfunctional federal government, increasing episodes of gun violence, the surliness of their border police and Homeland Security types at airports the US looks a lot less attractive than the countries it loves to badmouth.

It's been several years since I've been to China, but I would definitely go there again. Soldiers' attraction to it is understandable, as China has no interest in war. They're focused on making money, and seem to be enjoying that.

10 years ago

I was a child when all this happened, but old enough to be aware of what was going on. I remember the uproar about the "turncoats" at the time, and I always wondered what happened to them. It was not a pleasant time in the good old USA, with McCarthy and his red-baiting buddies riding high, and it was particularly bad for minorities. I can about understand why these men made the decisions they did.

10 years ago

This subject sounded so interesting, but to my disappointment the narrator was as dry as toast, he had no expression while he droned on and on to old grainy footage. Yawn.

I only lasted 5 minutes.

10 years ago

It is sad that we are so judgemental and condeming of peoples and cultures that we do not understand, instead of taking to trouble to learn more before we take sides and form opinions

Paul Samsom
10 years ago

'They shouldn't have let any of those turncoats back into The United States.'
This is a very stupid comment.

10 years ago

They shouldn't have let any of those turncoats back into The United States.

10 years ago

I really enjoyed the story since my dad was in the korean war and was wounded but not captured. It gave me a chance to see what he went through. Looking back on the history of the early 50's in America i can certainly see why some GI's chose to stay, particularly several black men from the south ... after all they were still being killed here for just being black in the south. I spent 3.5 years in Korea and so understand the hospitality of the asian culture, I was treated always as a family member by everybody I met ... even when I did not deserve it.

10 years ago

Am an elected socialist for the socialist party here in brussels and allergic to redneck dumbness (socialists make porsches and bmw's lol) so don't go blab how i'm some right winged wanker. But still i'd like to make clear that this docu is staged crap. There's a lot of crap on this site lately btw. Hardly visit it anymore.

10 years ago

chinese don't understand democracy or free market, they are thieves and counterfeiters, a society of kitsch

10 years ago

Very beautiful and very human story.

jiangzi biao
10 years ago

David Hawkins is quite intelligent and foreseeing. The elephant analogy is becoming true now after all.

10 years ago

Good documentary, but don't be confused, the cultural revolution gutted most of the "friendliness" out of the Chinese. I don't think they would have just stood around and watched back then when someone gets stabbed, run over by a car, involved in an accident, etc, as they do today.

10 years ago

believe the word 'turncoat' was used more than twice. it was as if every mid-century reporter/narrator/politician/what-have-you only had one concept amongst them to to fathom why a person might choose a different path.

not indicative of a free-thinking people, was it? is it? we're different now on the accidentals, but still very conformist at bottom.

we still don't look very deep, we are still disinclined to understand social ideas, much less those others who entertain ideas on the subject much different than our 'own'.

like mr. ross' comment as to the remaining 'socialist' regimes devolving into oligarchies not much different from the west. convergent evolution.

louise naylor
10 years ago

This documentary truly changed my life. As a child of the Cold War, taught to fear communism - the truths undeniable in this priceless documentary should be seen by anyone fearing the inevitible rise of China in the world.

No surprise to those who have already worked out that the best and worst of humanity is present in every race and culture - all the same I shall be posting this link 'till my little Western fingers hurt.

It occurs to me watching this - that something went wrong with all ideologies in the 1960's - were there a lot of solar flares or something?

10 years ago

This is strange. The doc was removed (will be re-posted) although it is not copyrighted.

FreeSpeechTV Channel on YouTube (independent television network) decided to remove it from their library. I don't know the reasons but it is suspicious.

Anyways since it is originally NFB documentary, it'll be embedded from their official site.

Mark Ross
10 years ago

I don't believe that documentary information, whether of questionable content or not, should be considered as property to be used to gain wealth, or should be censored. My original comments (see below) on China in general prompted my Chinese wife to point out that it's not so clear cut as I imagine. So I want to add a few comments to balance out the record. However, I can't do this for a few days, and in the meantime the doc has been removed!
But I have a copy here and will upload it to this site as soon as I can. I'm behind the Great Firewall of China, internet is not so open. Otherwise I can share it through Dropbox. Give me a few days. I have no idea who "owns" this documentary and why someone removed it, anyone got any idea of what happened? Incidentally, I'm not pro Chinese govt, Communism or any other form of Government, in my book, they are all corrupt and cater only to the wealthy few. China can not by any stretch of the imagination be considered as a "Communist" country, it's more like a capitalist country with leadership beyond the influence of the people, in that way it's indistinguishable to USA, and the UK, Australia etc. who only have the facade of democracy.

10 years ago

It's instinctual to choose life when your survival is threatened. This subconscious decision will be consciously justified by whichever means possible.

For those inspired by the Chinese Communism, just consider the question of why there are more Chinese immigrants all over the world than vice versa if their lives in China were as idyllic as portrayed.

It was clever politics and effective advertising to treat well, "above the average Chinese", the POWs as Western mouthpieces.

It's fascinating and cute though that most of the Chinese speaking POWs spoke Mandarin in quite a thick local accent. (I am from Taiwan, but grew up in NZ, and can speak the language). It's good to see the locals and the POWs forging genuine friendship.

Communism can seem an attractive ideology to the naive. One vital flaw however is assuming equality = equal entitlement. Think about this for a moment. Forced equal resource allocation will lead to resentment and ultimately collapse of the system.

The success of communism in China and almost no where else (except the desolated North Korea behind the iron curtain) I think resides in the stamina and adaptability of Chinese people. After some 5000 years of periodic power shifts in dozens of dynasties, civil wars, republics change-hands in quick successions has made the Chinese well adapted survivors to changing political arena wherever they are placed, and cultivated a people that tended to be inwardly cynical of any religion/political systems alike. Just look at how well capitalism has flourished in China!

They (we) have got one thing right though -- education and financial independence is key to individual success.

And for that, the Chinese shall rise.

10 years ago

thats why I HATE western Media , I know the republicans dont gonna like this but REALY THIS ARE FACTS i know now where my love for Chine came from sjie sje njie China I love you , even I am South American
Bye the Way Vietnam was a huge mistake too we know that now , before the western media declare it as a holy war

10 years ago

Thank you.What blew my mind was the Olympic games they had. The documentary should be shown in all schools, in the west.

10 years ago

Bought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. So good to watch. I was very impressed how the Chinese treated their prisoners, I never knew the Chinese treated them so well. I have always heard about Burma, Japan. Germany, Singapore that the prisoners were treated so bad. An enlightening documentary. Thank you.

10 years ago

Quite interesting. Never knew this happened. And I never would have, unless for this remarkable site.

10 years ago

Very interesting.
I wonder how many soldiers would quit a war and go back home in the middle of combat if they were allowed to.
My guess is in the millions throughout the world, throughout history.

10 years ago

Did anyone else notice the UFO at 2:40?

10 years ago

An interesting piece with great presentation of material.

10 years ago

great advertisment for smokers,.,.,.good video,.

10 years ago

Beautiful thank you very much
listen to voices of real people, sharing and caring for each other

10 years ago

The level of civilization in a society is measured by how they treat prisoners of war... by that same logic you can deduce how primitive mankind is by the fact that we still war with each other.

10 years ago

There was a group of American workers who opted to go and live in Russia , I think it was in the '30s . They wanted to play a part in the workers paradise . Unfortunately many were never heard of again and were feared to have ended up in the gulags . I read about it in Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago". Has anyone else heard this story ?

gunk wretch
10 years ago

kinda funny how the mother about 6 min who is talking about her son being brainwashed, actually sounds more brainwashed then the soldiers who stayed.. Her unnatural sounding choice of words definitely sounds like she was at least "coached" on what to say.

10 years ago

Wow - what an amazing piece of history. I had no idea this even happened. Beautifully done. I love this website!!

10 years ago

This is an excellent documentary!
When I was little, my great grandmother told me she felt her son, my great uncle, William Owen, who had fought and supposedly died in the Korean War, but who's body had never been found, might have decided to stay over there. It seems he had always been the restless type around home, and she just had this feeling about it. I doubt very much it's true that he did, but watching this one had kind of a personal side for me, given that family legend.

10 years ago

One of the best documentaries I've watched.

10 years ago

We now have the benefit of hindsight regarding the Korean War,U.S. foreign policies,the Red Scare,and Macarthyism in the 50's.This was a very unusual story,and quite moving.It is also quite well produced and directed

Matt van den Ham
10 years ago

Amazing, powerful yet subtle wisdoms...very Chinese like. North America has much to learn from the Japanese and Chinese in terms of spirituality and acceptance of different races and cultures. I'm sure someone out there would like to say North Americans can teach the Asians this and that, but the North American cleverness is always going to loose to the deep wisdoms they have kept in their culture.

Europeans are very much accustomed to smashing each others cultures in to bits, so there's very little opportunity for global growth or individual spiritual growth with this attitude/mind set. We need to embrace our interesting differences instead of fearing them!

10 years ago

Good doco. True the Chinese have some real positives though I don't know how xenophobic they might be, or how safe late night streets may remain, when they become as multicultural as Oz, the US, NZ etc. For example there was a man called Rewi Alley, a NZer, who chose to live as a communist citizen in China but he was treated very suspiciously even though he committed himself to China and became a party member.

It was good to see the paranoia and rigidity of the American interviewer and authorities but, to understand that properly we need to understand the absolute fear of what communism was doing in the Soviet Union. Lenin (Ulyanov) and Stalin did unspeakable things to their own people and the Allies knew about it before WW2. That all lead to Korea and Vietnam debacles and those who now live in South Korea are very grateful!

Although the time in China, up to 1956-7, was relatively benign, Mao's cultural revolution was a repressive, regressive great leap backwards. For example the mass killing of sparrows and the absurd iron foundries capitulated the masses into great famine, pollution and poverty.

Benign only to a point. Ignorance of the facts allows us to believe differently than we would if we knew enough.

But the people featured are wonderful. They were heartwarming.

10 years ago

wow that was really good.

Mark Ross
10 years ago

Nice contrast from the propaganda we were fed about the perils of the Chinese back in Australia. I'm 58 y.o. and four years ago I made the decision to live in mainland China. Most noticeable difference for me is the low key, peaceful nature of the people, compared to the often angry and aggressive attitude of western countries citizens. Whilst I know there are many injustices and social issues here in China, I also know that it's no different in USA, Europe and Australia etc. Aside from individual greed of those who hold positions of power, the bulk of the people, given half a chance, prefer to live peacefully. I can walk through the streets late at night, alone, and have no fears of muggings, beatings, or harassment, I see pretty young girls (also see older men and women) returning home late at night, also with no fear for their safety. I have lived in several western countries, and know that its not safe on the streets even for a man walking alone late at night. I don't put this down to politics, but to the fact that China is for the Chinese, it's not a multicultural society. There is a real tangible sense of belonging here. But they also welcome strangers, unlike some Australians who think it's their duty to angrily tell Asians to "$#@% off back to China, you *&%#@% ^##%@&*" Despite the face that the Chinese person is probably a professor at the local university, and even was born in Australia. In this way, multi-cultural society is demonstrating that it's not working as well as the social engineering experts would like us to believe. Peaceful harmony in Australia (USA etc) is seldom seen, and is gradually disappearing. Personally, it seems to me that the best times for the average family were had in the 60's 70's when my Dad like his friends, could support the family on his wage, while Mum kept on top of the real important work of keeping the family together and nourished. This is not possible today, and we have lost quality because of it. So for now, I'm happily soaking up the rich culture of China, and trying to earn a living here. Sorry for long post.