previously reported by Variety. “As the world’s largest market, there is much less need to bring Hollywood studio films into the market.”

Until recently, few in China had heard of Ms. Zhao, 38.

Born in Beijing, she went to boarding school in London, to high school in California and ultimately to film school at New York University. Before “Nomadland,” Ms. Zhao gained recognition for the critically acclaimed art films “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” (2015) and “The Rider” (2017).

In China, though, she was best known as the stepdaughter of the popular comic actress Song Dandan, who in 1997 married Ms. Zhao’s father, the former head of a Chinese state-owned steel company.

Ms. Zhao has spoken about what she sees as her shifting identity, a product, she said, of years spent moving around the world. She has described her Chinese heritage as part of that identity.

In a recent profile in New York magazine, Ms. Zhao referred to northerners in China as “my own people” and described herself as being “from China.” Global Times, a Chinese state-backed nationalist tabloid, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that Disney had said that Ms. Zhao was a Chinese national.

archived versions of the webpage. But by mid-February, the quote had been removed and a note added, saying that the article had been “edited and condensed after publication.” The quote is not in the latest version of the article, though it appears elsewhere on the magazine’s website.

Filmmaker Magazine did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Disney. Ms. Zhao could not be reached for comment.

Amid the nationalist-tinged outcry, many Chinese rushed to defend Ms. Zhao and heap scorn on the “little pinks” for being overly sensitive. “Nomadland” was a beautiful movie, many said, one that rose above the ugliness of politics and national borders.

Nothing comparable to its unflinching portrayal of the struggles of gig workers and America’s fraying social safety net could have been made in China, others said. On Douban, a review website popular with relatively liberal-minded Chinese, the film has nearly 66,000 reviews and a strong rating of 8.4 out of 10.

Some commenters also pointed out the irony that Chinese nationalists would want to clamp down on a film that seemed to fit so well with the narrative that official propaganda organs had recently been touting, of a rising China and a United States in decline.

“Chloé Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ deeply reveals the crisis of America’s lower-class citizens and the difficult lives of its people,” Qiao Mu, a former professor of communications at Beijing Foreign Studies University, wrote on Weibo. “This should strengthen our pride in socialism and our self-confidence in the Chinese way.”

“She is the pride of the Chinese people,” he added, “not someone who insults China.”

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