China Escapes the Zombie War


New reports suggest that the new Brad Pitt zombie movie World War Z will be slicing and dicing … scenes that could upset the Chinese government. According to The Wrap, an exchange in which characters determine that the point of origin for the outbreak of Zombie-itis was in China has met a grisly fate.

“Normally,” The Wrap reports,

“the detail would not have merited discussion at the top echelons of the studio. But given the fast-rising prominence of the Chinese market, state censorship and the quotas for US releases, the studio advised the movie producers to drop the reference to China and cite a different country as a possible source of the pandemic, an executive with knowledge of the film told The Wrap.”

This is not the first time that film scripts have been changed in order to please the Chinese. Iron Man 3 has also been chopped for the benefit of Chinese audiences – and at least in this case, a Chinese actor was added. Red Dawn, which was slated to feature the Chinese as the US-invading baddies, was altered so that the North Koreans would drop onto American soil. The Karate Kid remake went under the scalpel, too, so that Chinese bullies wouldn’t appear quite so mean.

Chinese cash now dictates much of the content springing from domestic sources. That’s because the movie business has changed substantially. Movie blockbusters used to be made with cash garnered from foreign presales – movie distributors abroad would pay cash up front for the right to distribute big-budget movies, based on big-name stars. But with the decline of big name stars and the failure of many top budget pictures over the last ten years, foreign presales are down significantly.

China, however, is a growing market. Catering to the dictators of China is not a difficult proposition, so long as Hollywood avoids offending communism or China directly. That’s why studios like Warner, Sony, and Fox are all developing TV programming directly for China. Other start-ups now look to China for investment cash rather than American sources. Americans understand that the movie business is incredibly risky. The Chinese government has no such qualms. If they take a risk on a film and it goes south, they can always just oppress their citizens more. And the chances of them truly blowing too much money are minute. After all, they can guarantee a certain level of box office performance thanks to their ability to set up a movie monopoly inside the world’s most populous country.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is increasingly upset about Hollywood’s relationship with China. Some on the left focus on Hollywood’s shipping of jobs overseas, and bribery of Chinese officials; according to the New Yorker, the SEC was targeting five studios including Disney and DreamWorks over bribery in China. Actually, China takes bribes from the studios to show their films. So the money moves both ways. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Foreign films that don’t land one of the quota spots [in China] either receive a small fee to play in China – typically less than $1 million – or aren’t seen in the country at all. As a result, getting into China under the quota can translate into tens of millions of dollars more in revenue.”

The market, contrary to popular opinion, is not patriotic. Studios will seek money wherever they can, including in communist countries like China. If they can access billions of eyeballs by spending millions of dollars, they will. And if they have to cut out some pro-American message, or leverage in some pro-Chinese propaganda, they’ll do it. All in the name of cultural diversity, of course.

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  • Chezwick

    In 1993, the brass, young Bill Clinton – newly in office – decided he was going to use economic pressure on China to compel that country into softening its human-rights policies….(this is before China owned such a significant portion of America's debt that it could call the shots in the relationship). He threatened sanctions unless China liberalize its domestic policies.

    The Chinese called his bluff….insisting they would re-direct their bilateral trade with America towards Europe. Clinton was inundated with complaints from American businesses, saw the writing on the wall, and from then on, become absolutely servile towards the Chinese.

    What was interesting was the utter hypocrisy of China's central argument that economic relations should be insulated from the political ups-and-downs of the two countries over-all relationship. Why was this so hypocritical? Because for example, China's criteria for placing huge state orders abroad for commercial aircraft were contingent upon the overall state of its relationship with the country in question. Therefore, Boeing, in order to secure the sale of its planes to China, was compelled to become a HUGE advocate for China in the halls of power in Washington. So it was with a myriad of other economic exchanges involving almost every major corporation in America….(the same technique was applied with chilling success in Europe)..

    Let's face it, China has won every facet of its bilateral competition with the USA. We are now the junior partner. And as America's debt spiral impoverishes the country, our relevance to the Chinese will surely diminish. Think they're playing hard-ball NOW, when they still need us as their primary export market? Imagine a future when we're just a bit player in their global economic Juggernaut.

    • Raymond in DC

      It's an old story. Back in the 1980s, the US discovered a major Japanese company had been selling advanced machining hardware for military use to Russia (or was it China?). The company was to be sanctioned and their imports restricted. But a slew of US manufacturers getting much of their electronic wares from the company petitioned the government. That company got a pass.

      • Chezwick

        I remember, Ray. The machinery produced ball-bearings that the Soviets used in their submarines. The result was a much quieter "footprint" that made the subs much harder to detect.

      • RonL

        The Soviets got milling and propeller techonology from Japan's Toshiba and Norway's Kongsberg Group. The ChiCom's got Aegis technology or at least insights from a honeypot operations on a Japanese idiot thinking with his wrong head. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles

  • louisbknockel

    You pay the music, you pick the tune.

    • Micha Elyi

      End the Hollywood tax cuts.

      And send in the clowns IRS auditors to go through their crooked books.

  • tagalog

    When it come to cash from China, Hollywood will change the movie. When it comes to the bottom line of profit, Hollywood still makes movies from some misguided sense of "principle" regardless of how repulsive the theme of the movie is (hence movies like "Valley of Elah" and "Rendition," that don't even make TV in the U.S. these days).

    • Questions

      Gee, you've got to back to the 2007 culture war echo chamber to find "evidence" for your case. How about seeing "Olympus Has Fallen" — this current movie is as anti-North Korea as anyone could make a film. And the staging and CGI are phenomenal.

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        CGI is CRAP.

        CGI is to "cinema" as Spin Art is to Fine Art.

      • tagalog

        My god, six years ago. Ancient history. Obviously shame on me for going so far back.

  • Guest

    @Chezwick,

    China is only playing the economic political game the way Clinton (and other US politicians) played it (and continue to play it).

    If China did not use economic leverages like Boeing, would US politicians stop using "sanctions" as threat against China? Your story about Bill Clinton would suggest no.

    As far the Boeing story goes, China was merely picking the "environment" where its business deals are not hinder by politics. Hey, if Clinton threatened sanction on China, it is only prudent for China to assume that its business with Boeing would be affected by the "sanction", and raise the possibility of going to alternative businesses in Europe.

    What Boeing does in political lobbying, that's Boeing's doing. Sounds like it's the US businesses that can't keep its hands out of US politics.

    • Chezwick

      Clinton's sanctions gambit was a once-only tactic, used in '93 to foster political reform in China…and was quickly abandoned when the Chinese wouldn't budge. Conversely, China's use of political considerations in its cultivation of business with foreign firms was (and remains) an on-going policy. For China to have once insisted that economic relations be divorced from politics….was hypocritical in the extreme. But the hypocrisy is no longer necessary; China's economy is of sufficient size that no country dare risk a rupture in trade over political issues.

  • Ar'nun

    So essentially we are subserviant to the Chinese now, great! Any one who has read the book this movie is based on understands they might as well then change the name because without the Chinese, it is no longer World War Z.

  • watsa46

    What matters to Hollywood is to make a lot of mullahs. The same can be said for any American with common sense. It is a matter of proportion.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      I think you meant MOOLAH – AKA money.

  • Cat K

    No, I think watsa's Freudian slip can stand on its own merits! Sadly.

  • Whateverman

    Didn`t israel sell some drones during the Bush era, behind the US`s back…
    if no one remembers, I am sure I will be able to whip up some links.

    • Whateverman

      I meant American drone technology to China

      • Derelictus

        You can never criticize Israel on this site for anything, Whateverman, they're always innocent of any charges made against them, and if you argue otherwise, you're probably Hitler Jr. ;-)

        • Ghostwriter

          For the most part,Israel is a worthy ally of the United States. You two just hate Jews.

  • Ghostwriter

    Is it me or is there something wrong about China dictating how we make OUR movies?