BEIJING • Social media users on Monday blasted a new Chinese film for embellishing history by portraying revolutionary leader Mao Zedong as vital to a conference of world leaders during World War II, which he never attended.
The Cairo Declaration - an upcoming war film produced by a company affiliated with China's military - is part of a host of government-directed events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender.
The United States, Britain and China met in Cairo in November 1943 to map out a post-war path for Asia, during which they decided that territories ceded to Japan before the war should be returned to China.
But the film's trailer and poster have faced a backlash on social media and state media, with Internet users pointing out that Mao played no major role at the conference.
China - then known as the Republic of China - was instead represented by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who went on to lose China's civil war to Mao's communist forces.
"I'm sad that my contributions at the Cairo Conference haven't been recognised in the film," joked one user on Monday.
Others were more jaded.
"Let Mao be a part of the conference, it's not like the rest of our history is real anyway," wrote another user.
Hong Kong actress Carina Lau plays former Taiwan First Lady Madam Chiang Kai-shek, who was also known as Madam Soong May-ling, while Chinese veteran star Tang Guoqiang plays Mao in the film. Hu Jun and Joan Chen also star. The film opens in China next month.
China is planning to hold a large-scale military parade in Beijing next month to commemorate what it calls the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.
A trailer for the film posted on YouTube opens with Mao making an impassioned speech saying: "The task for communists around the world is to oppose fascism through struggle."
The poster advertising the movie features Tang looking into the distance, but a website has been set up allowing Internet users to mockingly edit themselves or others in his place.
Edited versions circulating on social media variously had in Mao's place Gollum, the fictional character from The Lord Of The Rings, as well as a Minion, one of the yellow workers from the Despicable Me film franchise.
One has Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was born in 1953, in Mao's place.
"By featuring Mao, who was not present at the meeting, but excluding Chiang, the poster shows no respect for history nor to Mao," culture critic Sima Pingbang was quoted as saying by the Global Times.
On Monday, an editorial in the Chinese-language edition of the newspaper, which has close ties to the Communist Party, called the use of Mao to promote the film "inappropriate".