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Hollywood goes all soft on China


In a bid to extend its so called “soft power”, China is flexing its cultural muscles. It’s setting up language institutes around the world and is extending the reach of its state-run news channels a la Al Jazeera, to compete with the BBC and CNN.

There is one area where China lacks clout though, and that’s movies. China is the world’s fastest-growing cinema market – 3,000 new screens saw the light of day last year. Unlike the US or Europe, China’s movie audience still has a lot of growing to do. So Hollywood is doing everything it possibly can to get a piece of the Chinese market. To the extent of bowing down to the floor so as not to cause any offence to the Chinese.

When Men in Black 3 was released earlier this year, a scene in which Chinese restaurant workers turn out to be evil alien baddies had been cut out; and this is one example among many. Despite pressure from the WTO to limit foreign films to 34 a year, US films have amassed more than USD 800 million at the box office last year in China.

One of the reason’s Chinese films are being beaten at the domestic box office is because they do not depict the reality of modern day China. Lou Ye, who was once banned from making films for 5 years recently mentioned to the BBC that “a lot of Chinese movie producers and investors will not make movies about the reality of life (in China) to avoid the risk of censorship.”

It’ll be interesting to watch this “soft battle” between the US and China from afar. America has won the first battle, will it win the war?



Images: cover, 1: Jonathan Kos-Read via photopin cc, 2: via