CHENGDU, China (Reuters Life!) - Every war needs artillery, and the military machines in peacetime China are increasingly coming from a small, rural company -- China's movie industry, that is.
Chengdu Yingming Model Development Company Ltd. designs and produces replicas of planes, helicopters, tanks, and other military vehicles from all eras of China's history for movies, as well as for display in theme parks and exhibitions.
Founder Wu Zhiyong says his company is the only one in China to produce and sell life-size replicas of military vehicles for the film industry. The vehicles are made from scrap metal and often powered by tractor engines.
"It is very difficult for us common people to see weaponry in parks or other places. And to see foreign military equipment is even more difficult," Wu told Reuters Television in his workshop in the farmlands of Sichuan province.
"We want to show the general public our airplanes, tank models and other military equipment. We can use it as a way to teach them about national defense, but it also serves as a form of entertainment."
The company realizes a life-long dream for Wu, who grew up in a small village, never received a secondary education and as a child loved to create small-scale model planes, inspired by his father's job at a Chengdu-based airplane company.
In 1996, Wu opened his company, which started making small-scale models and later went on to produce full-scale replicas.
The models have been used in more than five Chinese patriotic war movies, including the blockbuster "Nanjing! Nanjing!," which depicts wartime atrocities by Japanese forces occupying the Chinese city.
The company, which started out in a farm courtyard, now employs dozens of workers and Wu recently invested 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) to build a new and improved workshop, which uses computer graphics to create accurate, detailed replicas.
China's Communist leadership regularly promotes patriotic films that depict the country's wartime history, guaranteeing a market for Wu's models. But the entrepreneur has his sights set beyond China's borders.
"Our goal is to introduce these special stage props to the international market. And so now we're trying to increase our scale. I hope that one day we can bring our products to Hollywood," Wu said.
Editing by Miral Fahmy