Information Warfare: Hollywood Goes Down For China


April 19, 2013: The American movie industry has quietly agreed to become part of the Chinese Information War effort. Increasingly over the past decade U.S. film companies have agreed to not only censor their films before they are shown in China but to edit scripts for the original versions of films so as to conform to the Chinese view of how China should be portrayed. The most blatant example of this was the remake of the 1984 movie Red Dawn, which dealt with an invasion of the United States by Russia and Cuba via Mexico. As bizarre as that all was, the movie was entertaining and a commercial success. Five years ago it was decided to do a remake of Red Dawn, and this time the Chinese would be the invaders. Before the movie could be released in 2010, China found out about the film and told the American film community that unless changes were made in Red Dawn, there would be serious consequences for the American movie industry (as in far fewer American films being allowed to screen in China). In response the producers edited the film, and reshot scenes as needed, in order to change the invaders from Chinese to North Koreans. This delayed release of the film by two years. The changes may have pleased the Chinese but the American audience stayed away in droves, and that was largely because the changes demanded by the Chinese were well known and much reviled.

While American movie makers have made edits to their films to get them shown in major markets (especially English speaking countries and major non-English speaking nations) they have never let foreign nations have, in effect, script approval of the original version meant mainly for American audiences. This power enables China to control its image as seen via American films. This is unprecedented and Hollywood does not want to talk about it.  It is basically about money. Over the last twenty years foreign markets have come to generate the majority of sales for American films, especially during the initial release in theaters. China lets few American films in, and usually only the big hits that are already profitable. What Hollywood is hoping is that China will allow more American movies in and help turn marginal earners into profitable projects.

China has always been a big believer in controlling the message. Even before the communists came along, with their more powerful Soviet and Nazi media propaganda techniques, Chinese history was full of examples of Chinese leaders making a great effort to control the content of books and other forms of entertainment and information that portrayed the emperor and his government. Other empires have been nearly as dedicated in this regard. This time, however, the Chinese have intimidated Hollywood to the extent that few American movies portray China, especially communist China, in a negative light. In historical terms, this is a momentous achievement and one the Chinese Information War bureaucracy is quite proud of.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close