Universal and Tribeca partners Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal will make a film about the rise of Mao Zedong and communism in China, using as a resource one of the only Western journalists on the ground to watch the events unfold.

Studio has optioned the Roy Rowan memoir “Chasing the Dragon: A Veteran Journalist’s Firsthand Account of the 1949 Chinese Revolution.” Jon Marans and Yuri Sivo will write the screenplay and Rowan will be a consultant. Sivo will exec produce.

Universal bought the project based on a pitch by the writers, who’ll weave the story into an epic-sized drama with a love story.

Rowan landed in China and traded in a gig as a worker for United Nations Relief for a job as a correspondent for the Shanghai bureau of Time and Life.

Teamed with photographer Jack Birns, Rowan covered China’s civil war and observed close up the rise of Mao and his army. Along the way, Rowan fell for a Chinese interpreter who may have been a spy.

The writers and author were repped by Preferred and Dannie Festa, along with lit agent Carol Mann.