Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man. He also has long-standing connections with China’s ruling Communist Party, and he is busy buying up Hollywood.
In this year alone, he has spent $4 billion on Hollywood assets, and that has some concerned.
Most recently, the 62-year-old’s Dalian Wanda Group bought Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globe Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and the American Music Awards. That cost him $1 billion.
Earlier in the year, Wang bought Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion. The prolific and cutting edge movie studio makes about six or seven blockbusters per year, with titles such as those made by Christopher Nolan (i.e., the Batman series, Interstellar, Inception) and Zac Snyder (300, Man of Steel, Watchmen).
Back in 2012, the Dalian Wanda Group first made its presence felt when it bought AMC Theaters, which has 300 movie theaters across the U.S. That cost him $2.6 billion.
Wang has now indicated that he wants to own one of the big six Hollywood studios — either Universal, Paramount, Disney, Sony, Fox, or Warner Bros, said the Hollywood Reporter.
Five years ago, no one in Hollywood had heard about Wang, but with his deep pockets, he is now being treated like royalty, reported the Hollywood Reporter.
But Wang is worrying some outside of Tinseltown because of his links with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
According to the China Owns Us watchdog website, the Dalian Wanda Group received at least $1.1 billion in Chinese government subsidies between the start of 2011 and mid-2014. Large Dalian Wanda Group stakeholders are also family members of high ranking Communist Party officials.
“Wang has even admitted that China’s ‘soft power’ play overseas has been ‘very beneficial’ to Dalian Wanda’s bottom line,” says China Owns Us. “It points to a strong incentive for the company to do the bidding of the Communist Party.”
Sixteen members of the U.S. Congress also voiced their concerns over growing Chinese influence in Hollywood in September, mentioning the Dalian Wanda Group’s acquisitions.
On a personal level, Wang’s connections with China’s communists began at an early age. His father fought with the Party’s founder Mao Zedong during China’s civil war, and Wang himself served in the People’s Liberation Army for 16 years. After that he served some time as a deputy to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party.
For more about how China is buying its way into Hollywood, see this China Uncensored video:
But even before Wang made his presence felt in the U.S., many studios in Hollywood were purposefully making movies that would not upset China’s ruling powers in the hope of accessing the country’s massive movie market. Only 34 foreign films are given a tick of approval by the CCP to be shown in China each year, unless they are a co-production with Chinese interests, as Disney did for Iron Man 3.
This has made Hollywood movies pliant to the demands or the sensitivities of the Chinese government.
Films made in the 1990s that showed the Chinese regime in an unflattering light — such as Seven Years In Tibet, about the life of the Dalai Lama, or Red Corner, starring Richard Gere — would not get made today, says Ying Zhu, a professor of media culture at the City University of New York.
Ying told NPR that the Chinese Communist’s increasing economic power is dictating how films are made in America.
“The Chinese censors can act as world film police on how China can be depicted, how China’s government can be depicted, in Hollywood films,” she says. “Therefore, films critical of the Chinese government will be absolutely taboo.”
For more on the issue, see this video from China Uncensored: