The Iron (Movie) Curtain: How the Chinese Government Conquered Hollywood


If you were a foreign power trying to manipulate the U.S., how would you do it? Spies? Hackers? Actually, America’s adversaries are trying to target…our movies. A surprising amount of what ends up on the big screen in your local theater is in some way influenced by China’s communist government.

In 2020, China became the largest film market in the world, which means it can be a goldmine for American movies if they show up on Chinese screens. But there’s a catch: Only about 35 foreign films are allowed into China every year — and the communist government decides which ones.

That gives China’s government the leverage to control both what their own citizens see and how China is depicted to American audiences. Lest that sound paranoid, consider the following...

In 2012, the Red Dawn remake was digitally altered in post-production to make North Korea, rather than China, the villains. In the sequel to Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s leather jacket is conspicuously missing the Taiwanese flag from the first movie. And in Marvel’s Dr. Strange, the titular character’s mentor “The Ancient One” — a Tibetan in the comics — became...Celtic.

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