Hollywood Won't Make This Film. China Won't Let Them.
Have you seen the new blockbuster documentary about how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has literally taken over Third World countries?
It hasn’t been done with military force, but rather with finance. It is all done through indebted relationships that fund infrastructure projects in poor countries called the Belt & Road Initiative. But like a predatory lender, the deals are made so that the countries have trouble paying it back.
The documentary lays out how these countries then “owe” the Chinese government in perpetuity. So when the U.N. meets to discuss proposals that criticize China for horrific human rights violations, the film shows how the Chinese pressures ambassadors from these indebted nations to vote against the condemnation.
You can be forgiven if you haven’t seen this documentary. That’s because the film hasn’t been made, and never will be.
It’s an open secret that Hollywood studios self-censor films to appease the Chinese government. The Chinese government only allows a few foreign films to be shown in the Chinese market of over 1 billion people per year. As Hollywood executive Chris Fenton described in the book Feeding the Dragon, China wields market access to bring companies into line.
Entire scripts have been changed to appease the Chinese government. In one infamous case, the 2012 remake of Red Dawn was totally rewritten so that instead of China invading America, North Korea did — a move that certainly required audiences to suspend their disbelief.
A-list actor Richard Gere testified to Congress last year about his personal travails with Chinese influence in Hollywood that effectively put him on a Hollywood blacklist. His 1997 thriller Red Corner is a movie about Gere’s character getting wrapped up in China’s corrupt judicial system. That, and his advocacy for Tibet, made him persona non grata to the Chinese. As for films such as Red Corner, he commented: “Imagine them being made today. It wouldn’t happen.”
The Chinese government can also influence what’s shown on our local movie screens. AMC Theaters, the largest movie theater chain on the planet with over 8,000 screens in America and more in Western Europe, was purchased by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2012. Wanda Group has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Movie producers and investors recognize even a subtle negative reference or image about China makes a film commercially unviable.
Meanwhile, streaming services have the same financial incentive to self-censor. Amazon Prime Video — which has thousands of American films — says Red Corner is “currently unavailable” to rent or buy. No reason is given.
The kowtowing of Hollywood to the Chinese Communist Party is just one piece of the Chinese government’s decades-long — and very subtle — campaign to influence American minds. The Chinese government has funded hundreds of programs called “Confucius Institutes” at U.S. universities and “Confucious Classrooms” in K-12 programs. These serve as subtle propaganda outlets for the Chinese government’s viewpoints.
The CCP advances its interests both by offering pro-China content wherever possible — they control airtime news on several large American radio stations in addition to their other efforts —and by suppressing any negative China imagery or stories in film or on campus.
Meanwhile, federal Foreign Agent Registration Act records reveal a Rolodex of lobbying and PR firms that work for Chinese interests. Between 2016 and 2020, these records show that Chinese spending increased from $10 million to $60 million. And the firms they hire provide substantial representation for the CCP interests in D.C.
The Chinese government has brazenly published its plan to dominate the world economically, technologically and militarily — with one major milestone coming in 2025 while they lull the American public into complacency. The obvious antidote to corrupt Chinese influence is strong leadership in the White House. So far, President Biden has rightly called out Chinese abuses and aggression regarding Hong Kong, slave labor, and Taiwan, among other issues.
However, these are non-domestic issues where we have little leverage short of military conflict. An equal focus needs to be placed on the erosion of American interests being executed by stealth in a way that we’ve never experienced before. The Congress and Biden administration need to act.
Rick Berman is executive director of the American Security Institute.