Thursday, October 21, 2021

Universal Studios Beijing opens amid concerns over China affecting Western entertainment

news analysis

After a two-decade wait, Universal Studios inaugurated a resort in Beijing on September 20, amid concerns over the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the Western entertainment industry.

CCP aims to build a positive image of itself by influencing Hollywood through large investments and the ability to enter, or be banned, the Chinese market at large.

NBCUniversal’s Universal Parks & Resorts holds a minority stake of 30 percent in the project. Five state-run companies own the remaining majority through Beijing Shohuan Cultural Tourism Investment Company.

The resort—Universal’s largest and its fifth globally—is the first major resort for Beijing, while other major Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong already have Disney resorts.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during a Q3 earnings call in 2017 that Universal Beijing’s revenue could be “over $1 billion in operating cash flow” per year.

The project was originally put forward 20 years ago by the Beijing Tourism Group. Yet Universal Studios only announced development in 2014 at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion. According to The Wall Street Journal, the initial investment was later increased to $6.5 billion.

According to a report by Penn America, a non-profit group focused on protecting freedom of expression, studio parent companies’ investments and stakes in these theme parks acted as commercial pressures that inspired self-censorship in Hollywood. . The CCP’s influence in Hollywood according to the report is a soft power push “typical for the degree of control it seeks to exert over all modes of representation and portrayal of itself as a globally emerging global superpower.”

The CCP is “trying to reshape the global information environment,” the Guardian reported in 2018. “It is intended to influence public opinion abroad in order to induce foreign governments to formulate policies favorable to the Communist Party of China.”

Censorship is the CCP’s weapon of choice in Hollywood productions. According to IMDB, China’s lucrative film market is coveted by Hollywood, as it posted $9.1 billion in box office revenue in 2019. In addition, the CCP limits foreign film imports to 34 per year.

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Penn America quoted UCLA professor Michael Berry as saying, “Many of these broadcast and media companies have their hands in many different pies, so why risk large business ventures for 90-second content? which can be easily cut?

“Instituting self-censorship is the way to go, especially when the big mainstream blockbusters need China,” Berry said in the Penn Report. “Hollywood has internalized these self-censorship mechanisms.”

Through self-censorship, the filmmakers avoid mentioning issues that might anger the Chinese regime. Banned subjects include Taiwan, Tibet, Falun Gong, Xinjiang, or anything that might portray China badly.

However, the CCP calls for other vague censorship. Penn America claims that the lack of regulatory transparency causes authors and manufacturers to “be extra cautious in self-censoring for fear of crossing the invisible line.”

For example, in “Doctor Strange” (2016), the filmmakers took the original comics’ ancient guardian of the Forest—the main character, who was a Tibetan man—and rewrote it as a Celtic woman, allegedly Chinese. To avoid losing access to the film market.

In addition, the “Top Gun” sequel removed the Taiwanese flag from Maverick’s leather bomber jacket, unlike the one he sported in the original film.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

daniel holo

china correspondent

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Danielle Hole is a Sacramento, California-based reporter specializing in China-related topics. He went to China alone and lived there for about seven years, learning the language and culture. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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