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China’s Secret Influence On The Global Filmmaking Industry

September 9th, 2021 14:00

In Jan­u­ary, the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions (CFR), a US think tank, pub­lished a pod­cast exam­in­ing China’s influ­ence on Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions, argu­ing that China’s cen­sors have secret­ly affect­ed and influ­enced Hol­ly­wood and the glob­al film­mak­ing indus­try. Accord­ing to the podcast:

Jan­u­ary 6, 2021 Since 1997, Chi­na has lever­aged its mar­ket to exert grow­ing influ­ence over export­ed U.S. films, cen­sor­ing con­tent that could cast Chi­na in a neg­a­tive light and demand­ing the addi­tion of scenes that glo­ri­fy the coun­try. Now, as China’s box office over­takes North America’s as the largest in the world, Hol­ly­wood has tran­si­tioned from accept­ing this cen­sor­ship to pre­emp­tive­ly cre­at­ing films and scenes that will please Chi­nese cen­sors. In this episode, two expert guests exam­ine what Chi­na hopes to gain from this strat­e­gy and what the impli­ca­tions are for the world’s pre­mier sto­ry­telling venue as it accedes to the wish­es of an author­i­tar­i­an government.

Go here to lis­ten to the podcast.

In the pod­cast, PEN Amer­i­ca direc­tor James Trager argued that 2021 is a crit­i­cal year for the Chi­na-Hol­ly­wood rela­tion­ship because this is the year that the Chi­nese box office is expect­ed to sur­pass the Amer­i­can box office as the most impor­tant box office in the world. In August 2020, PEN Amer­i­ca pub­lished a detailed report on how Chi­na is extend­ing its influ­ence over the glob­al locus for film­mak­ing in the Unit­ed States. Accord­ing to the PEN report:

Hol­ly­wood is an impor­tant bell­wether. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, under Xi Jin­ping espe­cial­ly, has heav­i­ly empha­sized its desire to ensure that Hol­ly­wood filmmakers—to use their pre­ferred phrase—“tell China’s sto­ry well.” With­in the pages of this report, we detail how Hol­ly­wood deci­sion-mak­ers and oth­er film­mak­ing pro­fes­sion­als are increas­ing­ly mak­ing deci­sions about their films—the con­tent, cast­ing, plot, dia­logue, and settings—based on an effort to avoid antag­o­niz­ing Chi­nese offi­cials who con­trol whether their films gain access to the boom­ing Chi­nese market.

Read the full report here.

Recent GIOR report­ing on China’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in the West has included:

  • In Sep­tem­ber, we report­ed that Chi­nese cor­ro­sive cap­i­tal is used to gain access to crit­i­cal assets, facil­i­tate elite cap­ture, and dis­tort local dis­course on Chi­na in Slo­va­kia and Czechia.
  • In August, we report­ed that Chi­na would increase its influ­ence and inter­fer­ence efforts in the run-up to the Ger­man par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in November.
  • In August, we pub­lished a GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion expos­ing how Chi­na uses busi­ness coun­cils, lob­by groups, and friend­ship asso­ci­a­tions in Europe to fos­ter Euro­pean elites sym­pa­thet­ic to China.