It is no secret that the Communist Party of China has a well oiled and operational propaganda engine to sway political opinion of the masses in China. The founding father, Mao Zedong's legacy lives on to this day as Beijing continues to spread its tentacles throughout the world and this time they might have found one of the most effective means to expand their global presence in the entertainment business- through Hollywood movies.
Dalyan Wanda, a Chinese Conglomerate has recently acquired Legendary Studios, one of the largest independent movie companies in Hollywood for a whopping $3.5 billion in cash. The Studio had co-financed popular movies such as “Dark Knight”, “Straight Outta Compton” and “Jurassic World” and has produced movies such as “Warcraft”, “Pacific Rim” and “Godzilla”. The deal was the largest by a Chinese company in the American movie production business closely followed by its second largest deal where it acquired AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the second largest US cinema chain. The company is now planning on obtaining a 49 percent stake in Paramount Pictures. This does not include other Chinese companies that are investing in global media and it will continue to rise.
This might not have ruffled any feathers if it weren’t for the fact that the companies investing in global entertainment are essentially controlled by Beijing, notorious for its censorship of material it considers unfavorable to its image. Wang Jialin, the founder and chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, is a prominent member of the Communist Party and has been reported to be the richest person in Asia for two consecutive years in 2015 (Bloomberg) and 2016 (Forbes). To assume that Beijing will not be overlooking the content of movies being produced would be naive.
On the bright side, perhaps this would ameliorate Hollywood’s image of often portraying offensive stereotypes of Asian culture, people and customs. However, is it really worth risking creative freedom? Chinese atrocities on Tibet are often stifled due to Beijing’s intervention. Movies such as “Karate Kid”, “World War Z”, “Skyfall” and “Mission Impossible III” had to be edited to satisfy Chinese Censors.
It is a particularly disturbing thought to consider the fact that President Xi Jinping confirmed his firm belief in Mao Zedong’s philosophy that “art dictates politics” in a 2014 speech. Media self-censorship has already become an escalating issue with cases such as well known human rights lawyer, Teng Baio’s book on human rights in China not being published due to the fear of offending Beijing. As other renowned media outlets such as the Daily Mail, the news site, partners with Chinese Government run People’s Daily, it is hard to guarantee that news being published from sources that has been reliable in the past does not get distorted to suit Beijing’s criteria of what is acceptable. We can only hope that free speech does not get suppressed and “art” transcends political interference.