This article compares the representation of China in two Italian films shot in country, namely Chung Kuo-China (Antonioni, 1972) and La stella che non c’è/The Missing Star (Amelio, 2006). In the intervening 30-odd years changes have occurred to the Italian perception of China. Specifically, this perception appears to have shifted from a widespread fascination for Maoism, to a negativity linked to the ongoing economic changes caused by globalization that saw a redistribution of wealth and power, and in which Italy and China appeared to symbolize the two extremes on the scale of a reversed power relationship. The two films are analysed on the basis of three assumptions. The first being that until the nineteenth century the encounter between the West and China was mainly one sided, with Italy being the first western culture to approach China. The second that Italian directors were among the first westerners to make full length films in the People’s Republic of China. The third that film-makers are intellectuals influenced by the historical period in which they film. This analysis will revolve on a historical contextualization, a discussion of meaningful film sequences, and the implications emerging from a comparison of the two films.