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Could The U.S. Soon Be Making Movies To ‘Serve Socialism’ In China?

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China’s new film law may have an impact on the American movie business, which is increasingly influenced by China.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, passed new laws to govern the world’s second largest film market Monday, reports Xinhua News Agency.

The new law stipulates that films entering the Chinese market must “serve the people and socialism.” Furthermore, films produced with foreign teams must not “damage China’s national dignity, honor and interests, harm social stability, or hurt national feelings.”

The value of China’s film market is expected to surpass North America in 2017, making the Chinese market a target market for American filmmakers.

The Chinese film giant Dalian Wanda Group, which is run by Wang Jianlin, a former army commander turned real estate mogul turned movie and cinema tycoon, plans to invest billions in Hollywood’s Big Six studios. Wanda purchased AMC, Legendary Entertainment, and Dick Clark Productions and is gunning for one of the Big Six studios. The company tried to acquire Paramount Pictures earlier this year. Hunan TV now has a significant hold on Lionsgate. Perfect World Pictures, another Chinese film company, has millions of dollars wrapped up in Universal Pictures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping previously said “art serves politics,” but the new legislation codifies this concept into law.

As American filmmakers move to cater to the growing Chinese market, the U.S. may see self-censorship or direct requests from Beijing. Over the years, Hollywood made numerous adjustments to appeal to Chinese audiences and appease Chinese censors, and trend which is likely to become more common as the market expands.

The Mandarin, the villain in Iron Man 3, was reportedly a Chinese character in the comics, but the character was changed for the movie. There was also a lot of product placement, such as Chinese milk. Milk also played a role in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film that pandered heavily to the Chinese market, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Some critics suggest that the emphasis on promoting Chinese milk may be an attempt to counter past complaints about contaminated milk from China.

A scene of James Bond killing a Chinese security guard was removed from “Skyfall” because it is unacceptable for a Chinese person to be killed by a foreigner. Actor Chow Yun Fat, who played Sao Feng in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” was removed from the Chinese cut because a Chinese person cannot be presented as a pirate. “Men in Black 3” removed scenes of agents erasing the memories of citizens from the Chinese cut because it could be perceived as a commentary on domestic censorship in China.

“Red Dawn” changed the nationality of the army that invades the U.S. to North Korean from Chinese. “World War Z” switched the source of the outbreak that caused the zombie apocalypse to Russia from China. “Pixels” deleted scenes of an attack on the Great Wall and references to Chinese hacking. The Chinese cut of “The Karate Kid,” which was produced in accordance with a Chinese script, was adjusted to show that the Chinese bully is not a villain and that Chinese people do not fight unless provoked.

The list of American films that have been outright banned in China because they don’t meet Chinese standards is just as long as the list of those which have been changed.

Now, films shown in China must adhere to “core socialist values.”

China’s new film law puts a significant amount of power in the hands of China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television. The question is: will American filmmakers make movies the way they want to, or will they change their films to meet the demands of the Chinese market?

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