Monday, July 11, 2016

China Is Using Hollywood for Information Operations

China is gaining more power in Hollywood, and as it does it is using that power to conduct influence and information operations. This is a growing national security threat that Americans should take seriously.

In April of this year, I wrote about the growing national security threat of Chinese power in Hollywood. And on July 1 USA Today published, “China is dictating terms to Hollywood.”

Dalian Wanda isn’t just a private company with a lot of money. The firm’s founder and chairman, Wang Jianlin, is a former Communist deputy and boasts strong connections to Party elites. His firm has received at least $1.1 billion in government subsidies. Wanda also sold company stakes to various family members of elected officials, including the elder sister of President Xi Jinping and relatives of two members of the Politburo — China’s principal policymaking committee. A business partner of the daughter of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also supplied the firm with seed money. 
These same elites are intent on expanding China’s “soft power” by acquiring cultural assets from foreign entities. President Xi Jinping has vowed to “strengthen China’s soft power” and “build its capacity in international communication.” China now spends about $10 billion annually on “external propaganda” alone — not to mention the country’s development and militarization of islands in the South China Sea. (The Chinese refer to non-military power accumulation as “political warfare,” aimed at influencing public opinion.)

Additionally, there were two articles published a day after my April analysis. These articles expand on how China is using movies to conduct influence and information operations. Specifically, what they show is that the Chinese aren’t just promoting positive images of themselves; they also are promoting negative portrayals of the U.S., the free market, and Christianity.

The Economist published a review of, Captain America: Civil War, on April 29. And here is what the reviewer wrote about the villains in the movie and Marvel movies in general.

Its terrorists are always fronts for domestic antagonists that no one could really root for: corrupt, power-crazed high-ups in America’s military-industrial complex who may also be undercover Nazis. Or space aliens. Either way, nothing to trouble sales of the film in overseas markets.

Hollywood has long hated American military might and the free market. But with the Chinese now exerting their power, the American “military-industrial complex” is ensconced as a “safe” villain—one so despicable that it’s on the same level as Nazis and space aliens.

Meanwhile, Variety published an article on Chinese director Zhang Wei on April 29. The article focused on Zhang’s forthcoming “Groundbreaking Chinese Transgender Drama ‘The Rib.’”

Chinese director Zhang Wei, known for his candid depictions of the marginalized in his country, will shoot “The Rib,” about a young transgender contending with Chinese society and his devoutly Christian family. The bold drama is likely to become a groundbreaking production for China. … 
Billed as being drawn from real life, “The Rib” will depict a transgender Chinese teen born into a Christian family, whose mother becomes deeply destabilized when she discovers that he wants to transition from male to female. In the ensuing conflict they overcome their differences and together face the rife prejudice against the local underground LGBT community.

Most Americans will never see this movie. But many Chinese will. And the propaganda certainly will serve the Chinese at home as they seek to undermine Christianity. Furthermore, it’s also interesting to note that the propaganda against Christianity in The Rib (as described the author of the Variety article) sounds exactly like what we see in movies that Americans watch. So the Chinese seem in-synch with their American moviemaking counterparts in attacking Christianity.

Chinese power is growing around the world. And the entertainment industry is no exception. And like every other area where Chinese power is growing, Americans should view their influence and information operations by way of Hollywood as a serious national security threat.

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