A number of Hollywood studio executives recently met with the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which is chaired by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), to discuss the various relationships that their companies have with China. These meetings, in Gallagher’s opinion, demonstrated that Hollywood studios still worry about the Chinese government’s reactions.
One of the things that surprised Gallagher, he said in an interview with Deadline, was that “there’s still a genuine fear of reprisal in Hollywood.” Gallagher questioned studio executives about whether or not they would publicly acknowledge the Uyghur genocide committed in Xinjiang by the Communist Party-led government, and all of them responded that they would be hesitant to do so.
They are aware that other countries would also retaliate against that specific film production. They would take revenge on the entire studio and attempt to treat it the same way they treated different actors who have previously backed the cause of Tibet, such as Richard Gere and others.
Hollywood Films Return to China
The Communist Party (CCP) and its emphasis on fostering nationalist sentiments and loyalty to the Communist Party led to a significant cultural shift throughout China that started at the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the party’s centennial.
As a result, propaganda movies, locally made productions, and practically no Hollywood releases were shown in theaters. Since then, the ban has been lifted thanks to films like The Super Mario Movie, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania finding a Chinese audience.
According to reports from earlier this year, Hollywood executives had hoped that the return of Disney CEO Bob Iger would improve ties between Hollywood studios and China. Disney recently asserted that the timing of Iger’s return as CEO and Disney’s return to China is purely coincidental, despite the fact that some have credited Iger with regaining access to the Chinese market.
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Hollywood Exports China’s Censorship Policies
Iger was among the individuals who met with Gallagher and the committee to talk about the pattern of self-censorship Disney and Hollywood have established over the past three decades in an effort to maintain greater access to the Chinese market. According to reports, Iger acknowledged that it takes a value judgment to comply with cultural or political requests, and they don’t always get it right.
Hollywood studios have come under intense scrutiny as a result of the self-censorship issue. Politicians, activists, and others have charged that by censoring or using specific images in recent games, these studios have enabled the Chinese government to export its values and policies.
For instance, the inclusion of the “nine-dash line,” which Chinese authorities have promoted as a means of undermining the territorial claims of neighboring countries, in Dreamworks’ Abominable and Sony’s Uncharted both drew criticism in South East Asia. Disney’s Mulan was also criticized for shooting in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has been charged with killing Uyghur citizens in a genocide.