China’s Starring Role in Hollywood

What does it take to make a Hollywood blockbuster? Movie stars? A great script? How about approval from the Chinese government? In this episode, two guests explore the surprising role of Chinese censorship and oversight in the production of U.S. films and ask what’s at stake as their presence increases.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Aynne Kokas
    Associate Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia
  • James Tager
    Deputy Director, Free Expression Research and Policy, PEN America

Show Notes

Since 1997, China has leveraged its market to exert growing influence over exported U.S. films, censoring content that could cast China in a negative light and demanding the addition of scenes that glorify the country. Now, as China’s box office overtakes North America’s as the largest in the world, Hollywood has transitioned from accepting this censorship to preemptively creating films and scenes that will please Chinese censors. In this episode, two expert guests examine what China hopes to gain from this strategy and what the implications are for the world’s premier storytelling venue as it accedes to the wishes of an authoritarian government.


CFR Resources


Media Censorship in China,” Eleanor Albert and Beina Xu


China’s Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang,” Lindsay Maizland

Read More


Made In Hollywood, Censored by Beijing,” PEN America 


How China is Taking Control of Hollywood,” Heritage Foundation


Looks like the new ‘Top Gun’ bows to China’s communist party by censoring Maverick’s jacket,” Vanity Fair


Mulan’ is a movie about how much Hollywood needs China,” Washington Post


Hollywood Made in China,” Diplomat


The China box office has surpassed North America’s as the biggest in the world this year with $2 billion,” Business Insider


Text of Disney's Response to "Mulan" ControversyPosted to Twitter by Iain Duncan Smith, MP.


Watch and Listen


China’s Influence On Hollywood Is Growing, Changing The Films You See,” TODAY


China’s Uighurs, With Gulchehra Hoja,” The President’s Inbox


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