China conquers Hollywood: Devastating ‘soft power’ win in global ‘war of ideas’

by WorldTribune Staff, December 21, 2020

Hollywood sells itself as a progressive industry.

It claims “to speak truth to power, and stand for social justice and the equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation,” Judith Bergman noted in a Dec. 19 analysis for Gatestone Institute.

‘China no longer relies on American blockbusters to fill its cinemas. Hollywood, however, needs the Chinese market to make its movies a financial success.’

Moviegoers get a regular dose of wokeness from the social justice warriors employed by Hollywood.

But most moviegoers are likely not aware that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has “a say over the movie they are watching,” Bergman noted. “Censored Hollywood movies do not come with a label stating that fact. Nor is CCP censorship a topic that Hollywood is willing to discuss openly.”

Tibetans and Uighur Muslims, to mention just two of the many groups repressed and brutalized by the communist regime in Beijing, “do not exist in the Hollywood universe anymore, only because the CCP said so,” Bergman noted.

China’s decade-long plan to conquer Hollywood became official when the Hollywood Reporter noted in an Oct. 18 report: “Movie ticket sales in China for 2020 climbed to $1.988 billion on Sunday, surpassing North America’s total of $1.937 billion, according to data from Artisan Gateway. The gap is expected to widen considerably by year’s end. Analysts have long predicted that the world’s most populous country would one day top the global charts. But the results still represent a historic sea change.”

China’s Foreign Propaganda Office noted in a self-congratulatory article on Oct. 20: “China officially the world’s biggest film market.” The article, published mentioned the Chinese blockbuster, “The Eight Hundred”, a World War II movie about a group of Chinese soldiers under siege by the Japanese army, which was the highest grossing film in the world in 2020.

“China no longer relies on American blockbusters to fill its cinemas. Hollywood, however, needs the Chinese market to make its movies a financial success,” Bergman noted.

Bergman pointed to a communiqué the CCP released back in October 2011, which spoke of “the urgency” of enhancing China’s “soft power and the international influence of its own culture” and the wish to “build our country into a socialist cultural superpower.”

Since 2012, the CCP has permitted a quota of just 34 foreign films. Only films that meet the strict demands of the censors of the Central Propaganda Department of the CCP are even eligible for consideration to the lucrative Chinese market.

The Central Propaganda Department is responsible for “supervising national film production, distribution, and screening, organizing the review of film content…the import and export of all films, media, publications and other content…including any cooperation with overseas organizations” and works to “implement the party’s propaganda guidelines.”

“China’s regulations and processes for approving foreign films reflect the Chinese Communist Party’s position that art, including film, is a method of social control,” according to a 2015 staff research paper for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“As a result of these regulations, Hollywood filmmakers are required to cut out any scenes, dialogue, and themes that may be perceived as a slight to the Chinese government. With an eye toward distribution in China, American filmmakers increasingly edit films in anticipation of Chinese censors’ many potential sensitivities,” the research paper said.

According to American PEN: “Beijing uses the substantial leverage it has over Hollywood to political effect. Pushing Hollywood decision-makers to present a sanitized and positive image of China and its ruling party, and encouraging Hollywood films to promote messages that align with its political interests. Beijing’s goal is not merely to prevent its own population from receiving messages that it deems hostile to its interests, although that is a major element of its censorship structure. Instead, the CCP wants to proactively influence Hollywood toward telling stories that flatter it and play to its political interests.”

Even fictional depictions of Chinese villains are removed from Hollywood films.

The remake of “Red Dawn” was set to depict a Chinese invasion of the United States (the original featured a Soviet invasion of America). But it was digitally altered, changing the Chinese invading soldiers to North Korean ones, in order not to make the Chinese look bad.

In the 2013 film, Gravity, in which Sandra Bullock played an American astronaut, Russian satellite debris damaged her space shuttle and Bullock only saved herself by getting to a Chinese space station. In reality, however, “the Russians have never sent a missile into one of their own satellites, as the movie depicts. But the Chinese did exactly that in 2007”, wrote Michael Pillsbury in “The Hundred Year Marathon”.

“U.S. Intelligence Officials were given no warning by the Chinese about their missile launch and in fact had been repeatedly assured that the Chinese government did not have an anti-satellite program. The Chinese recklessly created by far the largest, most dangerous space debris field in history, but the Russians get the blame in the movie. The effect of these misrepresentations is that the Chinese look like heroes in Gravity… the writers went out of their way to distort the history of what has happened in space….”

One way for Hollywood studios to bypass the quota of 34 foreign films per year is to co-produce films with Chinese production companies, thereby effectively giving the CCP creative control of the project.

The highest-grossing U.S.-Chinese co-production is called “The Meg”, which some who saw the film dubbed “a mediocre Jaws update.” Even Chinese moviegoers saw through the pandering. “In this movie, Westerners were either swallowed whole or ripped apart. But all of the Eastern characters all died a graceful death, with their faces unscathed…” one viewer commented. Another said: “This megalodon, which eats only foreigners and leaves a beach-full of Chinese people unscathed, is so thoughtful.”

“One of the most striking things about PEN America’s research was how reticent Hollywood professionals were to speak either specifically or publicly on this issue,” the PEN America report “Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing” found.

The reasons given for such reticence were several, but they all revolved around fear of a negative reaction — from Beijing, from their employer, or from Hollywood at large. As one Hollywood producer said to PEN America, “All of us are fearful of being named in an article even generally discussing China in Hollywood.”

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