Republican Senator Tom Cotton recently released a report titled “Beat China: Targeted Decoupling and the Economic Long War.” He advised Washington to mandate movie studios to dissolve their Chinese joint ventures and ban Chinese investment in the American entertainment industry.
Cotton argued that these actions would ensure that American studios produce content that is free from the influence of the communist regime. The focus on entertainment is only one portion of the report. It also tackles the broader issue of the U.S. decoupling from China in sectors like investments, telecom, rare earth metals, medicine, higher education, and AI. In a speech delivered at the Reagan Institute where he unveiled the report, Cotton asked the U.S. government to beat the “evil empire” and consign the CCP to the “ash heap of history,” just like the Bolsheviks.
In the report, Cotton gives examples of how Communist China has infiltrated Hollywood and forced it to make changes in the regime’s interests.
- In 2012, Chinese company Dalian Wanda acquired the most significant stake in AMC Theaters, America’s largest theater chain. The communist regime can now dictate what is shown in all AMC theaters.
- Director James Cameron signed a joint venture with a Chinese firm that included the transfer of cutting-edge 3D technology; it was likely done to get his films released more widely in China.
- DreamWorks entered into a JV to create Oriental DreamWorks that is now known as Pearl Studio. This studio is under the control of the CCP’s propaganda team. In 2019, the Pearl Studio JV created an animated movie called Abominable that featured a map in which the contentious South China Sea region belongs to China.
- The 2014 movie Transformers: Age of Extinction portrayed American officials as diabolical and ridiculous while Chinese officials were shown as selfless heroes.
- The 2020 movie Mulan thanked eight Chinese entities, including a security agency in Xinjiang involved in oppressive concentration camps.
Hollywood and Communist China
Cotton warns authorities in the United States that America is in a culture war with the CCP. To prevent Hollywood content from being further brought under the Party’s influence, America must terminate its partnerships with Beijing. The report recommends that Washington instruct AMC Theaters to separate from Dalian Wanda if the theater chain survives the pandemic.
“The United States should prohibit the DOD, CIA, and FBI from supporting any television and film studios that allow the content they release in the U.S. market to be censored by the CCP… The federal government must work with Hollywood to raise awareness about the CCP’s systemic campaign to manipulate, infiltrate, and capture its studios… Entertainment executives must understand that the CCP, while a profitable partner in the short term, is ultimately hostile to their freedom and creativity. They must be willing to face down this threat,” the report states.
Losing the market
While Cotton calls for decoupling Hollywood from China, the Hollywood studios would stand to lose revenue. China is a massive market for Hollywood that transmits American culture to the Asian nation. In 2020, China overcame the United States to become the biggest movie market in the world. If U.S. studios are forced to end Chinese partnerships, Beijing could retaliate by blocking off Hollywood films from the Chinese market, restricting American cultural influence in the region.
“If China doesn’t need US movies, Hollywood studios will have to dramatically reduce their spending on big-budget blockbusters… The current budgets are unsustainable without access to the China market. That could fundamentally change the model of the U.S. film industry,” author of Hollywood Made in China Aynne Kokas told CNN.