From trade to technology to the military, the antagonism between the United States and China seems to be becoming more and more obvious. But in the battle for global influence, cinema is an unexpected field. As the “latest battlefield” of the competition between the United States and China, Schwarzel, a media person, believes that the competition between the two countries in the film field will determine whether the values of democracy or authoritarian values are spread around the world. In an interview with Voice of America, Schwarzel talked in detail about his views on the “red carpet battle” between the United States and China and the role of the film industry in the competition between the United States and China.
“Love and Sweetness” has become a gradual decoupling of American and Chinese movies in the past?
Once upon a time, it became a fashion for Chinese actors to venture into Hollywood. Li Bingbing and Zhou Xun appeared successively in films such as “Transformers 4” and “Cloud Atlas”. Waiting for Hollywood blockbusters to create box office miracles when they are released in China.
However, the two new American superhero films “The Eternal Family” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” have not been released in China, and the award-winning “Nowhere” has been blocked by the entire Internet in China… 2021 in China About 25 Hollywood movies were released, about 20 fewer than in 2019. In addition, Chinese actors have gradually bid farewell to Hollywood in recent years. There appears to be a shift in Hollywood’s relationship with China.
Ann Sarnoff, CEO of film and TV entertainment production company Warner Bros., said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, one of the two major magazines in the Hollywood industry: “China is clearly Build your own local theater business.”
Chinese officials stated in the 14th five-year plan and the 2035 long-term goal outline that it is necessary to strengthen “foreign cultural exchanges and multi-level dialogues between civilizations”, promote international communication, tell Chinese stories, spread Chinese voices, and promote people-to-people bonds. Fields like theater and film seem to be a big part of that.
The “14th Five-Year” Chinese Film Development Plan released by the National Film Administration of China in November last year mentioned that it is necessary to focus on releasing about 10 well-received and well-received film masterpieces each year, and that the annual box office of Chinese domestic films should remain at 55%. More than %, so that Chinese audiences’ satisfaction with Chinese films continues to remain high. The “Plan” also mentioned that it is hoped that by 2035, China will become a film powerhouse.
Erich Schwartzel is the author of The Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Battle for Global Cultural Supremacy and a reporter covering the film industry in the Los Angeles bureau of The Wall Street Journal. He believes that China has built its film industry as an important part of its plans to export its national agenda to the rest of the world. He also said: “As China redefines the world’s geopolitical landscape, it hopes to use its films to redefine cultural boundaries. “The following are excerpts from Eric Schwarzel’s interview with Voice of America. The content of the interview only represents his personal point of view.
The different stages of Hollywood’s relationship with China
Reporter: Tensions between the United States and China are escalating on economic policy, technology, cyber espionage, military and human rights. Why do you pay attention to the film industry? Why the film industry is the latest battleground in the complex rivalry between the two countries
Schwarzel: I started covering Hollywood for the Wall Street Journal in 2013, and I was surprised to see China’s widespread presence in the entertainment industry. When we think of the U.S. and China, we think more of companies like Apple, Tesla, or Nike than necessarily Hollywood studios. But when I cover the film industry, I find that China plays a pretty big role in film production. In my opinion, focusing on the film industry serves two purposes.
One is that it can shed light on an aspect of the U.S.-China relationship that we haven’t explored in depth. Another point is, I think this is a very accessible topic to explain US-China relations in the 21st century. After all, everyone loves movies. Why not use it as a field to explore broader themes? Q: The relationship between China and Hollywood is different at different stages, so when did China start to seek a close relationship with Hollywood?
A: The story between the two began in the mid-1990s. At that time, Chinese leaders were modernizing every aspect of the economy and really trying to make China a player on the world stage. So in 1994, the first Hollywood film began to officially enter China. This film was “The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford. However, in the first few years of Hollywood’s entry into China, the Chinese market was still very small. This may not be something that film company bosses thought much about. Although China has a huge population base, there are not many movie theaters in China. It wasn’t until the early 2000s, until around 2010, that we started to see a massive surge in movie theater construction, and when you have more movie theaters, you can sell more tickets. So around 2010, China’s box office grew very fast, but the US box office remained stable. So anyone who pays attention to Hollywood can see that if you want to make more money every year, you have to pay more and more attention to China. By 2020, China has become the world’s number one box office country.
Q: Recently, however, the relationship between Hollywood and China seems to be not as close as it was a few years ago. Many Hollywood movies cannot be released in China due to various reasons. Why are the two drifting apart?
A: Yes, especially in the past year, the Hollywood landscape has changed, and the Chinese market is more unpredictable than ever. Over the past year, a number of blockbusters have not been allowed to enter China, and the box-office revenue that American studios were hoping for was wiped out. In fact, it is difficult for us to know exactly why the relationship between Hollywood and China is cold, but we can observe some things. One is that at any time, when the relationship between China and any country is increasingly tense, it will be difficult for these countries to do business in China. As a result, the United States may encounter some resistance in its quest to release films in China. The second point is because of the bureaucratic mechanism of the Communist Party. In the current period, no one is willing to take the mistake of approving the introduction of American movies when American movies are not popular. They prefer to operate with low risk within the bureaucratic system.
The third point is that since 2017 and 2018, the frequency of Chinese audiences watching Chinese movies is much higher than that of American movies. American movies have been very popular in China for a long time because they are the best choice, but with the development of Chinese movie industry, Chinese audiences will choose movies made in China, because audiences all over the world tend to choose those with Stories about them, and movies starring people who look and sound like them.
“Film Power” China seeks cultural output
Question: We know that Chinese President Xi Jinping said in 2014 that if literature and art want to reflect the aspirations of the people, they must adhere to the fundamental direction of serving the people and serving socialism. As an important part of the arts, China seems to have built its film industry as an important part of its plan to export its national agenda to the rest of the world. What do you think of this?
A: China’s influence seems to have grown stronger, and culture has become a major factor in it. In many ways, China is replicating what the United States did in the 20th century, introducing culture to other countries through movies and TV shows. I’ve always felt that watching a Greek, Thai, Indonesian or other film is the best way to learn about local life. Therefore, in the past five or six years, many Chinese films have been sent to theaters or TV stations around the world. In many cases, these practices are State-sponsored.
Q: Many analysts believe that there is a huge disconnect between what China wants to offer the world and what the world wants from China. In your opinion, what difficulties does China face in promoting films overseas?
A: The Achilles’ heel right now is that Chinese movies and TV shows are not becoming popular in the way Chinese leaders hope. This can be compared to South Korea, where productions like the TV series “Squid Game,” K-pop music and the movie “Parasite” have resonated with global audiences in the past period, something Chinese leaders can only dream of.
I think there are several reasons for this. One is that Chinese films started relatively late and still need to develop vigorously. Furthermore, take “Squid Game” as an example, Chinese leaders will never allow such a TV series to be produced. Many things that China decides to export are very safe entertainment products (safe entertainment). Some studies even show that the works that China decides to export are safer than what Chinese audiences can see, so Chinese officials will choose the safest works, I think This means that its work lacks the key points that make it successful. The third point is that audiences are actually very smart, they know when they are catered to, so whenever China decides to export some patriotic movies, audiences know that China is selling them this idea.
Q: In your book coming out in February, you talk about China’s attempts to export films and convey some of those values and visions, and the governance model that China advocates as an alternative to Western liberal democracy, “as China redefines the geography of the world. political landscape, they want to use film to redefine cultural boundaries.” So in this red carpet battle, what should the United States do to counter China’s attempts?
A: The Biden administration has taken a series of measures to confront China in diplomatic and other fields, but we have not seen much effort to deal with China at the cultural level. Part of the reason may be that the United States is still far ahead in this race. After all, American cinema remains by far the most powerful medium of the 21st century. China seems to be really trying to intrude in this area in a very important way. But there is one key difference between the US and China, and that is that the US entertainment industry will continue to need China, and China will no longer need the US.