China’s patriotic army of internet users are up in arms over a trailer for the new Call of Duty video game that includes a split-second shot of student protesters in 1989, just before the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The two-minute trailer for the popular franchise’s new “Black Ops: Cold War” title released on Friday features an interview with Soviet spy and defector Yuri Bezmenov, along with snippets of historical footage showing political upheaval.
In the interview, Bezmenov outlines the Soviet strategy of subverting Western domination through a process of “demoralization, destabilization, crisis, and normalization.”
Shortly after the one-minute mark, the trailer shows protesting students on top of what appears to be a military vehicle, sometime around the events of June 4.
The brief reference was not missed by China’s patriotic “little pink” or “xiaofenhong” internet users, who lambasted game publisher Activision Blizzard for “exporting ideology” and injecting “politics into video games.
“These white-skinned pigs are beyond saving,” one user said on Chinese social media platform Weibo. “They focus not on developing the game but promoting ideology.”
Another stated: “American politicians are the ones who want to start a new cold war.”
Activision Blizzard, which has huge business interests in China and has bowed to similar pressure before, quickly adjusted the video settings to private and republished a 1-minute version of the trailer on its YouTube channel that didn’t include the clip.
The current political and economic situation on the mainland resembles that seen in the run-up to 1989 — a country roiled by internal power struggles, natural disasters and economic problems, said veteran China watcher Johnny Lau. Any reference, big or small, to events that could trigger grievances against the Communist Party would likely be banned, he said.
Any mass-market video game that included sensitive historical events such as the June 4 incident was worthy of appreciation, Hong Kong-based democracy activist and Call of Duty fan Joshua Fung said, vowing that he would play it.
In 2018, China’s censors’ banned “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” The game features multiple endings, including one where a character imagines a fictional World War II bombing of Tiananmen Square.
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