In contrast to the dithering Western leaders (an Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-alike playing the California governor reassures the public that the worst is over, just as the state is swan-diving into the Pacific), the Chinese take command of the situation in "2012." When the global destruction starts sooner than scientists predicted, China, being the industrial behemoth it is, still manages to finish the arks in time.
In the film, Chinese soldiers are shown gently guiding Tibetans out of a village that is soon to be turned into a top-secret government base, yelling into a megaphone: "The party and the government will help everybody rebuild your homes."
At some movie theaters, Chinese audiences have burst into applause at the scene in which a Chinese army officer welcomes the family of the hero, played by Cusack, whose plane has just crashed into the Himalayas.
Some see Emmerich's inclusion of China as a ploy to access the growing mainland market. Chinese box-office receipts totaled $630 million in 2008, up 27% from the previous year, according to government figures.
But not everyone thinks that China's role in "2012" is entirely flattering.
"Only China, an autocratic state with an unending source of cheap labor, can produce the arks," wrote one Web user on a popular Chinese Internet forum called Douban.
Others point out that it's a Chinese soldier who leaves Cusack and his family to die because he didn't fork over the billions in euros for seats on the ark.
"It makes China look like it just cares about money and that China is all about industry," gift shop clerk Shi said.
Times staff writer John Horn contributed to this report.