The New York Times – The New York Times

Before the Winter Olympics, Chinese officials warned athletes not to speak out about topics that would expose them to light. Later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told American athletes not to anger the Chinese government.

It’s the latest sign that China’s campaign to crack down on dissent is succeeding in one important way: U.S. organizations and businesses have become increasingly silent to avoid angering the Chinese government. angry.

Actor and professional wrestler John Cena apologized in Mandarin last year for calling Taiwan a country. In 2019, a Houston Rockets executive apologized for tweeting in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong after complaints from Chinese officials and a leading video game publisher. has suspended an e-sports competitor who spoke out in support of the protests. The 2013 movie “World War Z” was rewritten to make it clear that its zombie-breeding virus did not originate in China.

Erich Schwartzel, author of “Red Carpet” about China’s relationship with Hollywood, tells me that one number drives these decisions: 1.4 billion, China’s population.

American businesses and organizations want to access this vast market. With China’s authoritarian leadership, that means following the rules of the Chinese Communist Party – and in particular, avoiding criticism for the country’s human rights abuses. Thus, the cultural institutions that underpin American values ​​such as freedom of expression are now frequently absent from public conversations about China.

American sports and media often present American values, even if clumsily or unfairly. These cultural exports helped spread democratic ideas internationally during the Cold War. Movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or “Selma”, which celebrates democracy, justice, and equality, can change the way people see the world and the way it works. Celebrities can push people to vote or get vaccinated, or bring attention to neglected issues.

Censorship prevents these institutions from illuminating China as its leaders crack down on dissent, suppress democracy in Hong Kong, and round up and detain ethnic Uighurs. and threatened war with Taiwan.

When asked about doing business in China in an interview with Times Opinion’s Kara Swisher, former Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged the reality facing Hollywood: “You try in the process and it doesn’t satisfy you. in harmony with what I call value. But there are compromises that companies have to make to become global.”

A recent example of censorship comes in “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is set to open in US theaters this year. In the original 1986 film, Tom Cruise’s character, US Navy pilot Pete Mitchell, wears a jacket with stickers of the Taiwanese and Japanese flags. In the sequel, those flags are gone.

Like Schwartzel report, Chinese investors told film executives that the Taiwan flag is a problem because China does not consider Taiwan independent. To be on the safe side, executives also removed the Japanese flag because of Japan’s own historical tensions with China.

Meanwhile, Chinese studios are making better movies, and they’re not afraid to take an anti-American stance. In the popular 2017 movie “Wolf Warrior 2”, Chinese hero Leng Feng saved the African villagers from an American mercenary named Big Daddy who claimed the supremacy of the people first. when Leng won and killed him.

The result is asymmetrical. Chinese films proudly showcase their country’s values ​​while American films are silent about China – distorting the message people hear not only in the US and China but globally.

American movies can even give the impression that China is better. In the 2014 film “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” U.S. officials were portrayed “in a not-so-beautiful tone,” according to US PEN. Chinese characters in movies, made with the support of the Chinese government, are often more selfless and heroic. Diversity called the film “a great patriotic film, if you’re Chinese.”

Transformers made over $1 billion at the box office – $300 million from China. From a business perspective, it was a success.

The pressure of censorship will increase as the Chinese economy, and therefore a potential market for American businesses, also grows.

Some US legislators tried to solve the problem, but any change in US policy will most likely have no effect. The freedom of speech that politicians defend also makes it difficult for them to tell Hollywood, the NBA, or anyone else what to do.

Another problem: The most prominent and obvious examples of censorship involve blatant interference by Chinese officials. But U.S. businesses routinely practice what Yaqiu Wang at Human Rights Watch calls self-censorship in anticipation: “Before forming an idea for a movie, the first thing they need to think about is, ‘Do it’ How can I guarantee that this movie can be shown in China? ‘”

That kind of self-censorship is harder to detect – or whatever.

Ultimately, American organizations may have to make their own choices: Deny censorship or maintain access to China. Right now, the desire to reach is winning.

  • China’s censorship efforts are part of an effort to bolster domestic nationalism by Xi Jinping, the country’s top leader.

  • “Friends” is the latest victim of censorship on Chinese streaming platforms.

  • In a rare reversal, the original “Fight Club” ending was restored following international backlash.

  • American academics say they also feel increase pressure to self-censor when talking about China.

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