China’s enormous leverage over Hollywood and other U.S. industries is a serious threat to the United States, warned a long-time Hollywood executive and film producer.
“We need to figure out how to make capitalism come after patriotic duties. The ability to create a strong foundation of a nation that allows free market capitalism to thrive,” said Chris Fenton, author of “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, and American Business,” in a recent interview on Epoch TV’s “American Thought Leaders” program.
He warned: “If we continue to let it deteriorate, our form of capitalism is going to be more like the Chinese Communist Party’s form of capitalism.”
China’s enormous market has been very appealing to Hollywood studios, which made about 60 to 90 percent of their box office in China prior to 2019, according to Fenton. The figure declined to about 32 percent in 2019 before dropping to around 16 last year amid the global pandemic.
Even in recent down years, China still contributed significantly to U.S. movie studios’ earnings. For example, Marvel Studio’s 2019 movie “Avengers: Endgame” grossed about $629 million in China, compared to its domestic box office of $853 million. Marvel Studio is owned by Walt Disney.
The CCP’s leverage over U.S. corporations and industries was best exemplified by the communist regime’s retaliatory actions against the NBA, according to Fenton.
In late 2019, then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey took to Twitter to voice support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. His action angered the Chinese regime, as China’s state-run broadcasters stopped airing NBA games, Chinese companies halted ties with the league, and NBA and Rockets merchandise was pulled from store shelves. The financial loss was massive for the NBA.
“It shows the amount of leverage and the amount of dependence our industries and our businesses have on China revenues, on China profits, and on the China growth story that they have to tell their shareholders and have to tell their investors,” Fenton added.
The Chinese regime is also known for punishing its critics. Recently, it censored the movie Nomadland, which won best picture at the 93rd Academy Awards, because its Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao was critical of the communist regime in an interview in 2013.
That year, Zhao told New York-based Filmmaker magazine that her birth country China was “a place where there are lies everywhere” when she was growing up. She now lives in Ojai, California.
As a result, there are concerns that another movie directed by Zhao, Marvel’s “Eternals,” might not get a China release, according to Fenton.
“If that’s a retaliation that affects Disney at that level, which will eventually affect the Marvel IP across the board and affect their theme park, you realize the ramifications of coming out and talking about something that’s critical of the Chinese Communist Party,” Fenton explained.
Last year, the Chinese regime also took countermeasures after it faced international criticism over Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan.”
There were calls to boycott Mulan after the film used its closing credits to thank several Chinese government agencies, including a police bureau, in China’s far-western Xinjiang region. The police bureau was placed on the U.S. Commerce Department’s trade blacklist in 2019 over its involvement in the regime’s repression in Xinjiang—where over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are being detained in internment camps.
“Chinese Communist Party essentially slowed down the box office receipts of that movie, stopped the promotion and marketing of the film in China and even took away expansion rights to the Hong Kong theme park from Disney,” Fenton said.
In order to fend off Chinese influence, Fenton said the United States needs to rediscover its roots that guarantee America’s free-market economy.
“Free market capitalism that we have grown to love and cherish can’t thrive without a strong nation. The nation has to be stronger than just what makes money. It has to be built on principles, and values, and rights that we hold dearly. Things that we’re so passionate about, that we would go to war over, and we have gone to war over,” he explained.
“What I want is the country that I’m growing my kids up in to be the nation that I believed it was when I was growing up—I believe can be for my kids to grow up in. But right now, we’re just allowing money and this silence to take over the way we operate. It’s just not who we are as a people.”