In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Aynne Kokas, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia., and author of the award-winning book Hollywood Made in China. We cover a lot of ground in this 30-minute episode talking about the major players in the China cinema ecosystem, Hollywood’s tendency to self-censor to make sure they are kosher with the PRC, and whether this influences the types of movies getting funded or even the writing and casting. Naturally, we turned our attention to the release of Mulan in Chinas theatres this weekend and talk about the tepid response it received there and why, as well as any impact the impending ban on TikTok or WeChat might have on the movie industry in China. Enjoy!
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Aynne Kokas, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, where she teaches students about U.S.-China media and technology relations. She is also a Senior Faculty Fellow at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia where she does work related to U.S.-China policy, particularly around how corporations and the governments of the U.S. and China interact in the space of media and tech.
Aynne is the author of the award-winning book Hollywood Made in China. The big studios in China include the China Film Group, the Shanghai Film Group, Alibaba Pictures, and Tencent Pictures. These studios are “getting into the cinema game” in much the same way that tech companies in the U.S. are. That is, by producing a large amount of high-budget content, these cash-rich companies are able to drive traffic to their platforms.
Netflix’s China strategy is to enter the market in any way it can. While it has been difficult for them to enter as a platform, they have been able to distribute content more successfully. These shows are streamed on Chinese platforms such as Iqiyi. By improving the content on these platforms, they can pull in more subscribers.
Analysis has shown “clear colorism” in both Chinese and Western films released in China. Aynne suggests that this might be due to “a lack of great roles for people of color” in Hollywood. That being said, a lot of Indian films have done well in China. So have many Korean and Japanese productions. A lot of the gatekeeping decisions regarding the distribution of foreign media have very much to do with the geopolitical relationships that China has with these different countries.
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