Film “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton with the Theme of Social Justice

Categories: Movie Review


“It is shameful to be felicity due to personal desire, instead the person should be sacrifice himself to the great revolutionary cause”[footnoteRef:1] said by the narrative voice from the film of “Morning Sun”. In the study of contemporary East Asian society, China is showing the one of the most significant modernization process since from the end of World War II, and has experienced the great sociological turmoil under the formation of Chinese communism party with Mao Zedong’s political direction.

By looking at the film of “Morning Sun” that is directed by Carma Hinton in 2003, the film has shown the detailed images as what have happened through the year of 1945 to 1972, where China is at the unique stage under the extreme political atmosphere that is directed by the ideology of Mao along the control of the Chinese communism party. In the film, it has shown three stages of the story as the formation of Mao’s ideology, the beginning of Mao’s propaganda and the social chaos that has caused under Mao’s ideology.

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In order to present these change of stages under Mao’s ideology, the director has used the documentary technique as interview the two opposite groups of people as the past believers in Mao’s ideology, and the victims from Mao’s ideology. In this case, the film itself is strongly connected with the theme of “social justice”, which by looking from the formation of Mao’s ideology towards the ending chaos under Mao’s political direction, the definition of “social justice” has changed within the Chinese society along with the change in different stages of time.

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[1: Morning Sun, directed by Carma Hinton (2003), Online]

Social Justice: Beginning of the Ideology from Chinese Communism

By looking at the beginning section of the film “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton, the director has directly introduced the historical background of the beginning form Mao’s ideology along the idea of “social justice”. The meaning of social justice is defined as the rightfulness within the society, which is what people should be following and taking action of. However, during the special period of Mao’s ideology, the meaning of social justice within the Chinese society has shown different level of definition based on Mao’s ultimate political decisions. At the beginning of the time, the Mao’s ideology is still strongly bonded with the traditional form of socialism along the Soviet Union’s sociological and political model. In this case, the Chinese communist party was initially obtained its political power since the Sino-Japanese War, and officially proclaimed itself on October 1st, 1949 as the national anniversary to its accession in power[footnoteRef:2]. In this initially form of Mao’s ideology, the film has indicated that Mao as the supreme leader of China, he has seen the power of political control is more important than anything else, which means the maintenance of stability of political power is weighted more than other sociological aspects as living condition, public opinion and economical growth. During this section of time, the social justice is considered as following the unique socialism model that is designed with Mao’s initial ideology as people should be denying any ideology that is based on capitalism (the oppressive western capitalism society) such as making personal profit or obeying the central ideology from the society. Overall, at this stage of time, the social justice within the Chinese society is defined as strongly following the socialistic rules from Mao’s political direction based on the mixture of communism and socialism. [2: Chalmers, Peasant Nationalism in China, 02]

Social Justice: Definition of “Justice” Under Mao’s Political Direction

Moving on from the initial stage of the People’s Republic of China under Mao’s direction, the film has started to show where the Mao’s ideology is starting to become radical or being criticized as impenetrable. In this stage of time, the major event is seen as the “great leap forward” (Da Yue Jin), which is a political order that Mao has directed to the Chinese society, and the goal is make a great economic and social campaign that is totally unrealistic. Because of the failure from “great leap forward”, Mao’s political power has been questioned from his fellow officials, such as Liu Shaoqi, the chairman of Chinese communist party. Due to the political condition, Mao’s ideology has starting to become extreme and radical, and the Chinese citizens has become a form a living propaganda as a political weapon for Mao Zedong’s ultimate power while strongly following Mao’s ideology regardless with the wrongfulness behind it. In this case, Mao has emphasized that “the “bourgeois” character and limits of the Communist Revolution […] it was an emphasis that found theoretical expression in the Maoist theory of “New Democracy”[footnoteRef:3]. From this perspective, Mao’s ideology has defined the following classes of landlord, scholars, capitalist, artist and anyone that is obeying Mao’s political opinion to be the enemies of the Chinese people. In this stage, many innocent scholars such as the president of Peking University[footnoteRef:4] and artists has been publicly criticized and humiliated in the society. Moreover, the social justice at this stage is been called the Chinese citizens should become a “screw” to contribute to the great development of the socialism society under Mao’s direction[footnoteRef:5]. The metaphor of “screw” is showing the social justice is seen as the citizens should be contribution or even sacrificing their life to the overall social development, and most importantly, the citizen should not obtain any personal opinions just like an object that is emotionless. Overall, the social justice within Chinese society is no longer “justice”, instead it is just a mainstream ideology that is based on Mao’s ideology, which the general public believe it is a rightful practice, but it is not. [3: Meisner, The Place of Communism in Chinese History, 14] [4: Morning Sun, directed by Carma Hinton (2003), Online] [5: Ibid]

Social Justice: Cultural Revolution and Chaos

Moving on, the last half section of the film has shown the chaotic image during one of the major social event of culture revolution within the early People’s Republic of China under Mao’s political order. The cultural revolution is been discussed as one of the most profound crisis within the modern Chinese history[footnoteRef:6], as in this stage of time, everyone can become a public enemy as being considered as a “counterrevolutionary” for minor mistake or showing a sense of obeying Mao’s ideology. Comparing to the past stages in Mao’s ideology, the cultural revolution has shown the opposite side to the common meaning of social justice, as the entire society has gone chaotic, and considering any object or person that is not belonging to Mao’s ideology to be an enemy. In this case, a special group called “red guard” has formed, and most of the red guards are just citizens from peasant class or students that are craze in Mao’s leadership. From this background, the red guard has gained the ultimate power that is outmatching the local police and officials, and the entire society has become unlawful. The actions from the red guards are seen as “began a ferocious campaign to rid the city of aspects of its everyday life ostensibly incompatible with strictly prescribed notions of revolutionary virtue, ruthlessly attacking religious artifacts, temples, […] or anything symbolizing Western or capitalist society or associated with China’s premodern past”[footnoteRef:7]. In this case, the true social justice is no longer exist within the Chinese society with the radical actions of violence from the believers in Mao’s ideology and the red guards. Further to say, the social justice during this period of time is defined as following the mainstream population’s action as using extreme form of violence towards anything that is considered to be counterrevolutionary. Overall, in this last section of the film, the event of cultural revolution has shown the chaotic image from Mao’s radical ideology, and the outcome towards the Chinese society; In general, the theme of social justice is no longer a suitable word in this period of time, since there is no justice to be followed, instead people are just following the mainstream propaganda even it is totally ruthless and wrongful. [6: Wu, The Cultural Revolution at the Margins, xv] [7: Ibid, 64]


Overviewing the film of “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton, the film has shown the three stages of early form of People’s Republic of China under Mao’s political ideology and direction. In the final outcome, it is shown that there are “17 million urban “educated youth” (mostly graduates from only junior and senior high school) were forced to live and work in rural areas”[footnoteRef:8] and countless people are dead due to the violence and humiliation through the cultural revolution period. In this case, by connecting the theme of social justice with this film, the meaning of “justice” has presented in three kinds of level along the change in stages of time. Overall, the early formation of the People’s Republic of China has undergone some of the most chaotic period under Mao’s ideology, and the meaning of social justice has been defined differently based on the social atmosphere as a whole. [8: Zhou and Hou, Children of the Cultural Revolution, 13]


  1. Chalmers. “Peasant Nationalism in China,” n.d., 3–30.
  2. Meisner, Maurice. “The Place of Communism in Chinese History: Reflections on the Past and Future of the People' s Republic of China.” Chinese Worlds: Multiple Temporalities and Transformations 18 (2007).
  3. Morning Sun, 2003.
  5. Zhou, Xueguang, and Liren Hou. “Children of the Cultural Revolution: The State and the Life Course in the Peoples Republic of China.” American Sociological Review 64, no. 1 (1999): 12.
Updated: Aug 05, 2021
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Film “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton with the Theme of Social Justice. (2021, Aug 05). Retrieved from

Film “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton with the Theme of Social Justice essay
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