Why The China-Hollywood Relationship Is Complicated

With China, Hollywood must navigate a constantly changing set of rules.

The fact that China is a dominating global force is nothing new. Yet when most people think of China’s rise, they don’t tend to think of movies. But maybe they should, says one China scholar.

″[China uses film] to try and promote so-called soft power all over the world, telling China’s story,” Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science at the University of Southern California specializing in Chinese politics and society, says of China’s most recent developments in the industry. This has made it difficult for Hollywood to figure out what approach to take. The large population of viewers in China is a market it wants to continue to tap into ― but China’s success may also create more competition.

One problem, according to Rosen, is that the Chinese government’s film regulations are far too inconsistent.

“What’s acceptable now doesn’t mean it’s going to be acceptable tomorrow or the next day.”

In a four-part interview with The WorldPost, Rosen discusses how Hollywood must carefully navigate collaboration with the Chinese film industry, and why the United States needs to be shrewd in its approach. Ultimately, he analyzes what has happened, and where the relationship is headed next.

Today, China may entice Hollywood with its large potential audience, which accounted for close to 50 percent of the worldwide box office earnings in 2017. This has led to the idea of co-production between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry, Rosen says.

But, China’s changing regulations are a major challenge for co-production, making it an unpredictable market, he argues.

In fact, in other parts of the entertainment industry, companies like Netflix have given up on approaching the Chinese market on their own, due to inconsistencies of censorship regulations.

Some have decided the best approach to the Chinese market is through technical partnerships with local companies, a move that has been incredibly profitable over the past year. “Wolf Warrior 2,” a Chinese film that employed technical support and guidance by Hollywood directors and producers Joe and Anthony Russo, was one of the all-time top grossing films in a single market.

In spite of the challenges, some American filmmakers ― like the Russo brothers ― have realized that the Chinese market is far too profitable to give up on entirely. This is why, Rosen argues in an op-ed for The WorldPost, “one solution, already well underway, is the participation of Hollywood studios in the direct production of local language films intended solely for the Chinese market.”

Whether this will be the future of the complex China-Hollywood relationship remains to be seen.

For more on Hollywood and China, watch The WorldPost’s four-part interview with Stan Rosen here.

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