The Final Communiqué of the (Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China), which concluded its work on Thursday, November 11, 2021, affirmed of the (position of Comrade “Xi Jinping” at the heart of the CPC Central Committee and at the heart of the entire Party, by identifying the most prominent guiding roles of “Xi Jinping” Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics as the Soul of the New Era for the Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation and the Realization of Comrade “Xi’s slogan” of achieving the Chinese Dream). We can identify of Comrade Xi’s most prominent directive lies in the idea of unification, union and solidarity of all the Chinese people and their various ethnic and national minorities with the Chinese (People’s Liberation Army, the Party and the Chinese state). The most prominent comment on the final communiqué of the Central Committee, has led by “Jiang Jinchuan”, as “Chief of Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee”, emphasizing that: “This is the call of the times, the choice of history, and the common aspiration of the Chinese people”
Despite the full understanding of the leaders of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of all the challenges that China is now facing, it was fully agreed to (place Chinese President Comrade “Xi Jinping” at the heart of the Communist Party, and to adopt the guiding and ideological role of “Xi Jinping Thought” as a guarantee for the Communist Party and the mainland China, its Armed Forces, and the various sons, sects, national and ethnic minorities of the Chinese people to defend China in this changing global environment and the profound challenges that China is now facing at home and abroad). Hence, we can analyze the content of the closing statement of the Sixth Plenary Session of the CPC Central Committee as follows:
The Communiqué of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has stressed out on the (cohesion of the Communist Party, people and government), with the China’s insistence on the “territorial integrity” of mainland China and its dependent regions of (Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan). And China is determined to push forward the path of peaceful development and common prosperity for mankind.
This is in addition to the statement’s confirmation of China’s achievements, which astonished the world, through China’s development initiatives around the world, especially after Chinese President Comrade “Xi Jinping” launched the “Belt and Road Initiative” in 2013, and China’s assistance to the world during the pandemic (Covid-19). China’s provision of all medical aid to the world to combat the epidemic, and the promotion of the “Healthy Silk Road” in accordance with the principle of a common future for humanity launched by Chinese President Comrade “Xi Jinping”.
The statement of the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is a document of great importance for China and the world, in that it coincides with the “seventy-second anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China”, and in the same year as the “anniversary of the celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party” in its first centenary.
The session conducted an in-depth summary and appraisal of the decisive achievements made by China in (building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way), and confirmed the breakthroughs and great progress made by the country during the period of the (Fourteenth of the Five-Year Plan) in comprehensively deepening reforms and laws on strengthening rule-based governance.
The closing statement session of the plenum has confirmed the words of Comrade (Xi Jinping), in his capacity as the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, and his constant affirmation that:
“The Chinese nation will continue to press ahead in breaking through strong winds and strong waves, after working hard and overcoming difficulties since the “18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China”, the country is closer to realizing the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any time in history”
The most important achievements of the Communist Party of China come in the ability of its leaders to achieve rapid economic developments and long-term social stability in the past seventy years, and its ability to (build modern China).
Emphasis on the statement that according to practice, (the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the system of governance of China), which are two systems with strong vitality and enormous strength, and that these (two systems are capable of supporting the continuous progress of the country), which has a population of about one billion four hundred million people. With ensuring the achievements of the two centenary goals of the (great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation) with a civilization spanning five thousand years.
A careful reading of the statement of the plenary session of the CPC Central Committee reveals the most important observations that the issued statement affirms (the continuity of thought, leadership, and orientations of the ruling party in China). It calls for consolidating and improving the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and pushing forward the “modernization of China’s governance system” and capacity under the guidance of from (Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory), as they are “Three Important Represents Ideas”, with the “Scientific Development Concept”, that has been developed by the Chinese Comrade President “Xi Jinping’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.
The session comprehensively analyzed the international and domestic opportunities and challenges facing China at present, formulated (the guiding ideology and the main principles to be followed for economic and social development in mainland China), and the achievements of the Party’s recent “Five-Year Plan”, and set the main objectives of development to emphasize the most important achievements of the Communist Party of China and the state under the leadership of Comrade “Xi Jinping”, by (reviewing all the results achieved during his era), such as: the economic development sector, new steps in reform and openness, the most prominent new improvements in social stability, making new progress in building environmental civilization, and raising People’s standard of living and welfare to new levels, and the stress on the “new upgrades in the efficiency of the China’s national governance”.
Also, according to the statement of the Communist Party, it has pledged to improve systems in all fields, to advance fundamentally modernize China’s system and capacity for governance, and to fully realize it as “New China celebrates its centenary in 2049”.
The session’s closing statement emphasized the need to (deepen reforms comprehensively as a fundamental strategic issue related to the general situation of the party and the state). It is the same as what Comrade “Xi Jinping” has repeatedly, by his emphasis on:
“It is necessary to carry out comprehensive research and planning, cooperate in promoting reform, development and stability work, plan first and then act, first gather the accumulated strength and then release it gradually, so that we can gain the initiative to achieve our business better”
The most prominent task of the full issued communiqué was to emphasize (the continuation of the Communist Party’s path), regardless of the complexity of the international environment, or how difficult and difficult the tasks of reform and local development are, but it is necessary to maintain strategic planning, and insist on (deepening reforms in a comprehensive way), with a well management of the internal affairs. Only in this way can the leaders of the Party and the Chinese state be able to seize opportunities wisely and deal with challenges.
The statement stressed that (adhering to and improving the institutional system of the party leadership), in order to raise the party’s levels of exercising power in a scientific, democratic and in accordance with the law, as one of the most important tasks and measures that ensure the achievement of the desired goals of the Communist Party of China.
Adhering to and improving the (institutional system of the people being masters of the state, to develop socialist democratic politics), which should be fully in the both sides at the internal and external levels, by raising the “Party’s ability to rule the state and exercise power in accordance with the law”, ensure and improve the Chinese people’s livelihood in urban and rural areas, to meet the people’s growing need to a better life, adhere to the guarantee of the Communist Party of the “People’s Liberation Army” to carry out its mission in the new era to defend the security of mainland China internally and externally. As well as fully affirming adherence to and improvement of the institutional system of “one country, two systems”, and the peaceful reunification of the motherland, while adhering to and improving the independent peaceful foreign policy, advancing the building of the community with a common future for mankind, upholding and improving the supervision system of the Communist Party and the Chinese state, to strengthen the “restriction and supervision of the exercise of power”.
The spirit of the statement kept pace with the spirit of the times, by emphasizing (integrating modern technology and the global innovation network and insisting on scientific and technological innovation by self-reliance). Innovation comes at the top of the party’s new development concept, and occupies an essential place in the general situation of “building up the Modernization”. Which is the first driving force to the social development since the beginning of China’s reform and opening up, China has always adhered to the concept that “technology is the primary productive force in guiding social development”. The “technological progress” that the Communist Party aims at in the final analysis is targeting the (technological innovation).
The statement emphasized the achievements of the Chinese state by emphasizing China’s commitment to self-reliance, for example (China is committed to self-reliance in technological innovation), because this (in line with the historical trend of active integration in the world, openness and mutual benefit). Hence, China can continue its journey to build a modern socialist force by encouraging innovation, and deepen high-level reform and opening up with the integration of innovation, so as to achieve high-quality economic development and provide a high-quality life for its people.
The statement affirmed the achievements of comrade (Xi Jinping), and his constant emphasis on reform and Chinese openness, which we emphasize during one of his speeches by making a deep presentation on the implementation of reform, as he said:
“The key to reform is implementation, and the difficulty of reform also lies in implementation, at present, there are more favorable conditions for implementing and consolidating reform, the basic elements of ideology, practice, system and popular support for carrying out reforms have become more solid.There is a need to invest more efforts in implementation, strengthen leadership, develop comprehensive scientific plans, and pay close attention to implementation and focus reform on solving problems. the operation”
Here, we find that the statement of the plenum stressed that upholding and improving the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and moving forward in (modernizing China’s system and capacity for governance is a very important strategic task for the Party), and stressed that all the goals and tasks set by the session should be fully accomplished under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The statement continues the approach of the (Nineteenth National Congress of the Party), of emphasizing the leadership of the Communist Party of the country, by emphasizing that:
“Party committees, governments and senior officials at all levels should sincerely enhance their awareness of the system and take the lead in protecting the authority of the system. He set an example in implementing the system for the whole party and society as a whole”
The statement also emphasized (the principle of national unity of the Chinese people), emphasizing the need for the entire Communist Party of China and the Chinese people of all nationalities to rally closely around the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, with Comrade “Xi Jinping” at the core.
This statement came as an opportunity to emphasize the “CPC’s ideological prejudice against China by US policies towards it”, which China strongly opposes.
The statement emphasized (unifying and planting the seeds of solidarity between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party and not paying attention to attempts to drive a wedge between them). Considering that the Communist Party always expresses and preserves the interests of the people, and has won their deep trust and sincere support. This was confirmed by Comrade “Xi Jinping”:
“Attempts to drive a wedge between the people and the Communist Party are a provocation directed against the entire Chinese people and will fail”
Based on our understanding of the communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Central Committee session of the Communist Party of China, we conclude that we can understand and analyze the most important points of agreement among all, as a result of the extremely sensitive timing of this meeting, due to the interaction between many variables and the repercussions, resulting from the unprecedented challenges with the Corona Virus pandemic “Covid-19”, that is why the calls of China and the leaders of the Communist Party and its General Secretary, Comrade “Xi Jinping”, came in determination to lead China’s international development initiatives around the world, barrelling with the (China’s refusal to follow the old colonial path to control others). This is in line with China’s launch of the “Belt and Road initiative” in 2013, as a major platform for the international cooperation with its popular and global humanity benefit.
Therefore, from my point of view, the Chinese insistence on the opening of the “Belt and Road – The Great Wall of China International Festival of Folk Culture and Arts” for three days, which began on September 15, 2021, in the cities of (Langfang, Qinhuangdao) with the participation of more than 600 international figures from UNESCO representatives, Diplomats and all national folk cultural institutions related to the “Belt and Road”, and this confirms China’s keenness to exchange benefits with everyone around the world through its international initiative of the Belt and Road, with full commitment to the path of peaceful development expressly stipulated in the Chinese Constitution, by following (a new path for Chinese development). These are the same points that were agreed upon during the meeting of the Sixth Plenary Session of the Communist Party Central Committee, by emphasizing the (China’s role internally and externally in supporting the development path), especially in light of those global challenges after the Corona Virus pandemic, and in light of as well those American pressures to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Unmasked by Qatar World Cup, China’s Nationalism Is Transforming Itself to Internationalism
Perhaps for many Chinese, the proudest moment during Qatar World Cup 2022 was not when Ma Ning made his World Cup debut as a FIFA listed referee, but was when Japan came from behind in stunning win against Germany – a seismic shock to tell the world that an Asian team could actually defeat a powerful European one.
Dubbed as the “Light of Asia”, Japan’s victory gave Chinese soccer fans vicarious thrills. If anything, it is reminiscent of China’s painstaking resistance to imperialism and colonialism in its modern history – a period of fighting to rid itself of the Western-imposed insult “Sick Man of Asia”. On top of a flurry of praise for Japan, reflections are sparked on why Japan and other Asian football teams are making strides while Chinese team is mired in a tailspin. All of a sudden, so many political fanatics in China – those who feed on nationalism and the so-called “Chinese Dream” – have made an about-face and started to join the witch-hunt of Chinese football quagmire.
“When the gap between ideal and reality is too large, people can’t help but ask why the difference is so big.” The comment posted by one Chinese netizen captures the crux of the issue represented by Chinese football. For decades, China has been dreaming about becoming a football superpower, which is often bantered as an easy task of “picking 11 players out of its 1.4 population”. That dream, however, is crushed over and over again by China’s repeated World Cup elimination since 2002 to an extent which even President Xi Jinping’s passion about football has failed to galvanize the sluggish Chinese football. Flaring nationalism may help cook up a fairy tale of a forthcoming powerful football team, but it cannot belie the fact that China is nowhere near there.
Unmasked by Japan’s performance during Qatar World Cup, the reality that many Chinese can no longer shy away from is that China’s football dream is ill-founded, as is its superpower dream. They realize that when football fans from all over the world assemble in Qatar to celebrate the once-every-four-year carnival, their quarantine life is entering the fourth year. They find out that while workers in western countries can strike for a higher pay without the fear of being arrested, they can only choose to be passive aggressive through quiet quitting. The rise of China gave them the rise of work time but not the rise of pay, and the nationalism fed them with illusion instead of promotion. It does not take a genius to figure out that something went wrong with the once-exalted China model.
Blatant humiliations of western countries that were once dominating Chinese social media was taken down a notch this year, not by the government, but by Chinese people themselves. The rhetoric used by the Chinese government to pump up nationalism – “East is rising and West declining” – is being supplanted by the burgeoning “run philosophy”, a jargon for disillusioned Chinese longing to emigrate. As the Chinese government has strengthened internet censorship to a level which is almost on par with the Cultural Revolution standard, discussions on news deemed as having negative impacts on the stability of the society are largely forbidden. Ironically, that has provoked more Chinese people to rethink the freedom of speech, especially after many of them had the first-hand experiences of various forms of inhumane treatments inflicted on by the zero-Covid policy.
“Now it looks like BBC was not exaggerating. Instead, it was actually being reserved.” Sarcastic comments as such appear more frequently under videos implicitly unveiling the dark underbelly of China, ranging from the chained woman to bank customers beaten up by an unidentified mob to the bus crash killing 27 people who were forced to be transported to a Covid quarantine facility. The incessant government-led tragedies and repressions have made more people realize that western media such as BBC, once intentionally demonized by the Chinese government, is an outlet they are now in desperate need of.
Caught between the endless nationalist frenzy and the grimmer reality, more Chinese people are recalibrating their lives in accordance with the international standard. They begin to realize that they are exposed to issues of human rights more closely than they ever thought. Due to their quarantine experiences, they can relate to Uyghurs incarcerated in “education camps”. Because of their desperation for food, they can feel the hopelessness felt by those migrant workers who were brutally evicted in that bitter winter. “Even prisoners of war are treated better under Geneva Convention!” Exclamations as such highlight the ongoing transition from hollow nationalism to humanistic internationalism in the Chinese society.
The Chinese government seems to forget the old Chinese wisdom that “things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme.” The higher nationalism rises, the harder it eventually falls. It was true for Germany, Italy, and Japan during the WWII and all the other governments attempting to exploit nationalism in history. China’s veneer of the “Great Wall of Steel” buttressed by the top-down nationalism is faltering and the bottom-up internationalism is spreading. The Chinese government may never know why their grand strategy of nationalism would ultimately fail, just as they never know that Japan has spent decades preparing for their victory over Germany.
China’s Manifestation of Geoeconomics & BRI
China in an unprecedented space of time has emerged as the second largest economy in the world and is exerting a form of ‘geoeconomics’ influence that is transforming the nature of international relations in the 21st century. Through this remarkable achievement, China has enticed so much attention in the world and international actors are curious about what Chinese leadership intends to do with its growing power and economic leverage.
China’s Belt & Road Initiative is one of the key manifestations of China’s goal to re-establish the fabled ‘Silk Route’ which historically had an important expression in China’s long-standing economic significance in Asia. In the context of long-run economic restructuring, an expanding material geoeconomics influence, and the development of a more self-confident and externally oriented policy agenda, it is no coincidence, that China’s leaders, especially Xi Jinping, have been talking about this possibility which potentially incorporates direct and indirect sources of influence.
BRI is a transcontinental long-term policy and investment program and a global initiative aimed at infrastructure development and acceleration of the economic integration of countries along the historic Silk Road with a prime focus on Asia, Eastern Europe, Eastern Africa, and the Middle East- a region of great significance in terms of emerging markets. The Belt Road Initiative was unveiled by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013 and was initially known as One Belt One Road till 2016. According to the official data, as of March 2022, 146 countries and 32 international organizations have taken part in the Initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), representing more than a third of the world`s GDP and two-thirds of the world`s population altogether.
BRI was officially launched to achieve five major goals including policy coordination, infrastructure, trade, financial integration, and people-to-people cooperation. China, via the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, is developing an inclusive, mutually open, balanced, and valuable economic cooperation framework aimed at regional integration and connectivity. In the early years of the BRI, eight whimsical trade routes were central to Beijing’s ambitions of trade connectivity: six land-based economic corridors encompassing the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and two maritime trade routes containing the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. The Chinese government departments: National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) laid the action plans for these trade routes of BRI in 2015, in the “Vision and Actions” agenda.
The two principal aspects of the BRI constitute the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ (SREB) and the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ (MSR). MSR is designed primarily to effectively link and integrate the maritime states of Southeast and South Asia in particular whereas, SREB, on contrary, intends to re-establish and modernize traditional overland connections with Central and South Asia, connecting them to both China itself and ultimately to Europe. BRI combines new and old projects, covers an extensive geographic scope, and includes efforts to strengthen hard and soft infrastructure, and cultural ties. It envisages an integrated network of ports, railways, and roads, a development that will help consolidate China’s place at the center of economic activity across much of Asia and Europe.
The initial stimulus for BRI was provided by the economic downturn in the face of the Global Financial crisis of 2008 in the West that provided China with a huge opportunity to come to the front and play a leading role in global economic development by bringing more countries into its economic orbit. Therefore, since BRI’s launch in 2013, it has been serving Beijing’s geopolitical and geoeconomic objectives by expanding China’s influence around the globe. In its early years, Beijing sought to simply strengthen its ties with the governments abroad and gain a foothold as one of their key economic partner using the strategy of offering loans, investments, and summitry while avoiding confrontation with the US. Thus, China engaged diplomatically with the countries where the US was less-invested politically such as countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa and the economic corridors situated at the heart of BRI mainly traverse these regions. The economic corridor of Pakistan serves as the best example, signifying this approach of Beijing.
CPEC, the principal BRI in Pakistan, a mega project worth billions of dollars is not only an economic corridor or transit route for the Chinese market but includes infrastructure and energy projects, construction of modern transportation networks, industrialization, and the improvement of Gwadar Port which is the most operational port regarding oil and gas shipping lanes. Moreover, there is a range of proposed special economic zones that runs about 2700 km along the route from Kashgar, China’s westernmost city, through central Pakistan to Gwadar port on Pakistan’s southwest coast, with these projects mainly focused on boosting the economic performance of Pakistan making the country a regional economic hub.
Rationally speaking, BRI has the full potential to achieve considerable economic and political gains for China and many of them have been explicitly acknowledged in China’s official policy communique, for example, the expansion of China’s export markets, the reduction of trade frictions such as tariffs and transportation costs and the promotion of the Renminbi (RMB) as an international currency. China’s growing economic stature has enabled it to transit from a grand strategy that merely sought its economic goals to one that benefits it to leverage its growing economic power in achieving unreachable foreign policy goals.
China’s economic rise has also given China’s leaders generally, and Xi, in particular, much greater potential agency. Chinese leaders are keen to use it to restore their former dominant status at the forefront of international diplomacy and great power politics and especially in its region which is widely supported by both the leadership of the PRC and by the population more generally. It cannot be denied that China’s enhanced geo-economic influence and rising power are giving it an upper hand to pursue these ambitions much more rapidly that had hardly been possible a decade ago or two.
Though predictable implications and consequences of BRI cannot be fully judged its possible trajectory is already becoming clear. China has both the state capacity and the practical experience in making such a project a reality. It has both the material resource and the key agencies, such as the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC), that have developed detailed plans for the successful implementation of specific aspects of the BRI. It is therefore important to emphasize that despite the shift to a more market-oriented economy, Beijing and its developmental agencies continues to play a major role in the overall coordination of economic development while projecting soft power in the form of geoeconomics.
Hollywood with Chinese Characteristics
Authors: Dr. Abhishek Srivastava and Ms. Shreyasi*
Cinemas are an effective tool to project soft power and influence communities at large. A number of Hollywood production-finance firms in the last decade have seen a major rise in Chinese investments. Some of the biggest Hollywood box office hits are backed by Yuan. To maximize profit off of the Chinese domestic movie consumption market, these movies either have elements of Chinese culture or they self-censor to appease the Chinese censorship authorities. A dominant explanation to this phenomenon is that China pursues a significant influence in the American culture by infiltrating Hollywood. Hollywood itself has, through its movies, exported American values since its inception. Any impact on this industry will consequently reflect on its movie consumers eventually.
China wears the global box office crown worth $7.3 billion and reigns as the biggest movie consumer market in the world. It bounced back from the pandemic slump of 2020 and turned twice the amount of revenue only 26% less than pre-pandemic numbers. During the pandemic movie theatres all over the world were shut down, literally zeroing down the movie theatre business. China due to its regime style, somehow managed to open up theatres to some extent and garner revenues.
China opened its domestic movie market for outside films only in the 1990’s. The ever-growing domestic movie market China has made it a golden spot for foreign language films to get screen time and thereby huge returns. More and more Hollywood movies and especially blockbuster category movies are lining up to get a spot since Chinese authorities allow only 34 films per year quota to foreign language movies. This strategy along with the promise of money has resulted in Hollywood movies altering their plot, stories, scenes etc., to suite the regulations of the Chinese censorship authority. The censorship authority’s aim is to induct Chinese values and promote their ideas through the Hollywood movies. Last 10 years has culminated into an intersection of free market and Chinese censorship. This is an unprecedented path whose outcome is very unpredictable.
Another strategy is the use of China’s economic power to get into the American movie business and then trying to induct a cultural change. Los Angeles has a big presence of Chinese firms and conglomerates who have major or minor shares in big production houses or have co- financed individual movie projects. It is not only limited to production companies but theatre chains, distributing retails and public relations management companies are also being brought by Chinese firms.
Chinese Soft power and public diplomacy through movies
Joseph Nye coined the term soft power and further broadened the area of study to public diplomacy. Much of what he has written on soft power, tools used by the United States to exercise soft power is relevant even today. According to Nye, Hollywood in itself is the biggest soft power influencer of the United States. The power Hollywood movies have had on different countries through generations is incomparable.
According to Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science in University of South California and a specialist on politics in the People’s Republic of China, even after spending $10 billion year in exercising soft power, China has not been able to compete with the U.S. Chinese soft power is much more involved in dealing with the domestic crowd. Much of the soft power is controlled by the state. This does not allow a natural spurt in soft power. Successful American soft power on the other hand has largely grown away from the clutches of the government. And this is what Chinese authorities are trying to bank on.
China in Hollywood
As explained before, the Chinese production house and firms exert control by buying up screen spaces. But movies themselves self-censor to appease the censorship board of China. The aim is to make it to the list of 34 movies which is allowed screen time in the domestic movie landscape. Chinese real-estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. has signed a deal for a majority stake in Legendary Entertainment that would value the U.S. film and television company at nearly $4 billion. Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings bought 10% of Skydance Media, the Hollywood company behind movie Terminator. The valuation of the deal of the production company is at approximately $1.5 billion. As part of the arrangement, Tencent and Skydance will co-finance movies, TV shows and video game projects too.
Apart from the Chinese values, an instance which shows the Chinese government’s good governance, foresight, China’s technology boom, good standard of living are expected to be shown in the movie by the producers themselves. The production houses of these movies often have Chinese co-financiers who work to make the Chinese authority happy. Any image which shows the country in a bad light is frowned upon. In the disaster movie, 2012, humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build the life-saving arcs. In Gravity, Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station which was shown to be the most advanced one.
The 2006 released book titled World War Z, a zombie apocalyptic horror novel written by American author Max Brooks was adapted in a 2013 movie of the same name by the Paramount pictures production. The original plot of the book is about a global pandemic in which people infected with the virus turns into a zombie. The virus origins or the patient zero as mentioned in the book is found in China but the movie adaptation refers to the source of the virus to be in Taiwan. This allowed the release of the movie in Chinese theatres.
In 2014, hacked Sony e-mails revealed that the original script of the movie PIXELS, which was released in 2015, called for blowing up of the Great Wall of China but finally in the movie, Taj Mahal of Agra is seen being blown up. This change was done with the hope that the movie could gain access to the Chinese theatre market. Blowing up of a national heritage site was not something the audience or the national film agencies of China would have appreciated. This incident is a classic example of American movie self- censoring themselves to gain access to a huge market, thereby ensuring a decent profit margin.
Understanding how important movies are in constructing imagery, the Chinese authorities make sure the country is represented in the fairest and best way possible. This includes hand picking visuals of the country in movies, curating dialogues, altering plots, storylines and characters, changing the way the people are represented in the movies. The censorship is so strong and rigid that certain words and cases are not allowed in the movies. Issues of homosexuality, democratic values and free spirit, rejection of authority, liberty and equal rights are certain areas which are a significant part of the Western cultural discourse. Nuances regarding these issues are often put up in public discourse through movies. But when such movies are presented to the Chinese censorship for approval, scenes representing these issues are straight away omitted. This is an attempt by the authority to isolate the local population from western cultural values. A prime example is the 2018 hit, Oscar awarded movie The Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie represented the life and times of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British music band The Queen and a well-known member of the LGBT community who died of AIDS. The movie’s cut which was shown in Chinese theatres lacked certain sections of the cinema which talked about the lead singer’s life as a homo sexual. This takes us again to Stanley Rosen’s argument that a bigger chunk of Chinese soft power strategy is within its border for its own public. The country keeps her media in check by regulating movies, especially foreign ones.
The 1997 movie, Seven years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt, depicts China’s controversial takeover of Tibet and the harsh Chinese rule in the country. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud and stars Brad Pitt and David Thewlis were allegedly banned from even entering China.
In the May month of 2021, actor John Cena apologised publicly on Chinese social media platform for referring Taiwan as a country. The production house of the movie, Universal pictures has a long-term co-financing deal with a Chinese entertainment company called the Perfect World Pictures. The movie is backed by Chinese money which made it mandatory for the actor to publicly apologise.
The sensitivity regarding Taiwan is so much that even public acknowledgement of the island nation as a country sparks outrage and objection by China. Tibet, Taiwan, Tiannamen square, Uighur province etc. are certain sensitive issues for the Chinese. The authority does not want any incident, in real life or in movies, to happen that could legitimise their existence, both amongst the domestic and the international audience.
China’s sensitivity to Tibet could be seen in the 2016 hit movie Doctor Strange, part of the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe of the Marvel production house. The ethnicity of a major character was changed completely. In the original comic books, the Ancient one is a Tibetan character, and the studio that was making Doctor Strange changed it to a Celtic character. The movie went on to earn around $109 million in the country. Eliminating a Tibetan character is an attempt to remove the issue of Tibet from the minds of any average movie watcher.
One of the top three highest grossing films in the box office of 2022 is the movie Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 movie Top Gun. In the original 1986 movie, the central character of Tom Cruise’s wears a jacket which went on to become a national rage in Northern America and consequently in more English language movie watching countries. The jacket on its back had a flag patch of US, Japan and Taiwan. In the trailer for the sequel released around two years back, Taiwan’s flag, which the island country has used since 1949, was seen being replaced with an ambiguous patch. This self-censoring by the movie makers was somewhat expected by audience since the movie’s co –producer, Paramount Pictures signed on Tencent, a Chinese tech firm to co-finance the movie. The Shenzhen-based conglomerate hoped to act as an “investor and co-marketer” of the film. But things turned out to be a different when the movie was released.
How receptive is the American movie industry and consumer?
The reaction of the American audience to the trailer, specifically to the changes made in the original jacket in the movie was extremely fierce. The aware audience has somehow grown a resentment towards artistic changes and additions made to American movies, done solely to appease the Chinese authorities. The makers of the movie sensed it and reverted to the original jacket which had the flag patch of Taiwan.
The case of Chinese authorities curating American movies is seen by Hollywood stakeholders as an attempt at altering culture and value system of the nation as well as the larger audience who are American movie watchers. Another matter of concern is the literal buying up of domestic movie production and distribution houses of America by big Chinese firms and conglomerates. A law has been introduced to the US Congress, that would regulate funding of these big American production house by foreign companies. In April 2020, Republican Ted Cruz introduced a bill titled “The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act” that the Texas Senator described as “cutting off Hollywood studios from assistance they receive from the Department of Defence if those studios censor their films for screening in China.” The legislation, called the SCRIPT Act, was introduced in May and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 2020 was also the time when tensions between the U. S. and China were at its peak and a probable trade war between the two countries was looming large.
Soft power is a long-term strategy which reaps benefit only in future. It’s arduous, laborious and results might not be visible instantly, unlike hard power which yields outcomes almost as soon as it is used. But when it does, it is the most profitable and significant investment a country could make in terms of both time and money. China realised this way back in the 1970s, when it mended relations with the U.S. The country has come a long way since the days when Bruce Lee’s movies were dubbed and rationalized to suit American and world audience. It is amazing to see how the world’s most powerful movie industry plays tune to China’s censorship authority’s pipe.
However, Beijing’s strategy of using money to implement soft power tactics has been unveiled. For a very long time this phenomenon was under wraps. Chinese firms pumping money in Hollywood production houses rose only post-2010 but it was done aggressively around 2015. When it comes to allowing foreign language movies to open in China, a limit of 34 movies have been posed. But these movies happen to be the biggest blockbusters of Hollywood, watched by a huge audience across globe. The impression these movies make is simply unimaginable. By censoring and planting favourable plot lines in movies, Chinese authorities intend to artificially manufacture of opinions. Off course, these opinions work in favour of the Chinese regime. This allows them to present to the world a narrative on issues close to Beijing’s heart.
*Ms. Shreyasi Post graduate Student, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
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