How the wandering Earth has changed in the last four years, I meant the movie sequel

P Chang
5 min readJan 30


We lived in a different world when "Wandering Earth" premiered worldwide on the 2019 Chinese New Year's day on Feb 9th, 2019.

Yes, the China-US trade war had already started for six months, but people still could not grasp the gravity of it and took it yet another brushoff like many minor conflicts in the past. A Chinese zillionaire still owned the AMC franchise. Hollywood was still secretly bending the rules to give the green light to many movies' Chinese investors so that the leading roles started to speak broken Mandarin. Superhero movies were getting plots to have China step in to save the world. This was initially driven by the sheer astronomic number of moviegoers in China, which Hollywood first discovered via the 2009 movie "2012". The Chinese loved the plot in that movie where the whole world was saved by the arks built by China in the Himalayas; the film sold so well in China. Later on, the 2013 "Gravity" and 2015 "Martian" movies also made record sales in China because they also had a plot twist where the Chinese government stepped in to save the day.

That led to the glorious box office triumphs for the Feb 2019 premiere of Wandering Earth worldwide. It broke so many movie sales records in China. I recalled that the 12-plus showrooms at AMC Mercado 20 of the Bay Area were dedicated to that movie day and night for a few days, and even more impressive was that these movie slots were sold out.

"The Wandering Earth" was a goofy movie where the Chinese astronauts went out to save the world. No one was questioning why only those Chinese were in charge and what the rest of the world was doing because it was just a fiction movie where these Chinese were fixing a series of technical issues.

Back then, the world was used to seeing most of their daily things were "made in China." So it felt natural to see this fictional operation of moving the Earth to another galaxy fall into the hands of a bunch of Chinese astronauts.

As a Chinese American movie super fan, I enjoyed watching that movie.

Then, the trade war deepened in the second half of 2019. The large sum of Chinese investment in Hollywood got the US worried, as many of these investments showed the shadow of the Chinese government. The fact that CCTV (Chinese Central TV) got its North American headquarters set up in Washington DC and I could find CCTV North American 24-by-7 programs in our local free channels even got me spooked.

Then COVID started, and the world got so polarized and distorted after three years of pandemic war. The relationship between China and America went from bad to worse, and now it is beyond repair.

Fast forward to the new year day of 2023, the sequel of this movie went premier in China and limited places worldwide. AMC is no longer owned by that Chinese zillionaire who was forced to sell it due to trade war pressures from both sides. AMC Mercado 20 is still among the movie's worldwide limited premier locations, but this time, AMC only offered one of its largest showrooms instead of the entire site.

I could grab the last two seats of the Saturday 6:30 pm showtime instead of the midnight ones back in 2019 for the first one coming out.

I could not help being distracted by some undertones of this movie, which painted the sequel with some rich, dark, doom colors that the first one never had.

That mood was played well by one of the finest actors in China, Li Xuejian. In this sequel movie, he acted as the fictional Chinese government representative for the UEG (United Earth Government).

He is very ill but with a strong steel will to carry on the YiShang project — moving the Earth to another galaxy, against the other options preferred by the Western world, primarily represented by the Americans, to go live in digital lives.

He carried a sad demur and occasionally threw comments like, "you Americans spent too much time complaining and whining. We deliver."

This character reminded me so much of Liu He, the Chinese Vice Premier who led the China side negotiation and signed the Phase One Trade Deal with President Donald Trump in January 2020.

The actor played so well that he almost screamed to the screen as if saying -" we were so misunderstood and wrongfully treated by the Americans. We meant to be friends and be collaborative and responsible to carry our duties to the whole world, but we are facing many headwinds."

Thanks to this actor's superb performance, I could imagine how well these nearly unspoken messages are to be received by the audience in China.

This character and the associated plots and scripts are something non-exist in the author's original story or the first movie. It is very well-camouflaged propaganda or a channel of frustration, depending on where you go to watch this movie.

Some hardcore fans of Liu Xinci the author complained about this character's distraction, but I got the message nonetheless, and I enjoyed tremendously of Li Xuejian's fine performance of it.

It is sad to see how quickly the budding friendship of two great countries has gone wrong and how hard to get different beliefs and faiths reconciled and worked out a common ground to better the world.

That's the power of movies. This sequel offers sci-fi and likely political fiction as if told by people living in a parallel universe of the same Earth shared among us.