Attorney General Bill Barr blasted Hollywood today for kowtowing to Chinese censorship while lecturing Americans on how our country “falls short of Hollywood’s ideals of social justice.” He also went after Big Tech for the same thing. Below is the video of Barr’s speech cued up to 27:21:
You can read the transcript of his comments below:
If what happened in China stayed in China, that would all be bad enough. But instead of America changing China, China is leveraging its economic power to change America. As this Administration’s China Strategy recognizes, “the CCP’s campaign to compel ideological conformity does not stop at China’s borders.” Rather, the CCP seeks to extend its influence around the world, including on American soil.
All too often, for the sake of short-term profits, American companies have succumbed to that influence—even at the expense of freedom and openness in the United States. Sadly, examples of American business bowing to Beijing are legion.
Take Hollywood. Hollywood actors, producers, and directors pride themselves on celebrating freedom and the human spirit. And every year at the Academy Awards, Americans are lectured about how this country falls short of Hollywood’s ideals of social justice. But Hollywood now regularly censors its own movies to appease the Chinese Communist Party, the world’s most powerful violator of human rights. This censorship infects not only versions of movies that are released in China, but also many that are shown in American theaters to American audiences.
For example, the hit movie World War Z depicts a zombie apocalypse caused by a virus. The original version of the film reportedly contained a scene with characters speculating that the virus may have originated in China. (In the novel, Patient Zero is a boy from Chongqing.) But the studio, Paramount Pictures, reportedly told producers to delete the reference to China in the hope of landing a Chinese distribution deal. The deal never materialized.
In the Marvel Studios blockbuster Dr. Strange, filmmakers changed the nationality of a major character known as the “Ancient One,” a Tibetan monk in the comic books, from Tibetan to Celtic. When challenged about this, a screenwriter explained that “if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people.” Or, he continued, the Chinese government might say “[w]e’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.”
These are just two examples of the many Hollywood films that have been altered, one way or another, to please to CCP. National Security Advisor O’Brien offered even more examples in his remarks. But many more scripts never see the light of day, because writers and producers know not to even test the limits. Chinese government censors don’t need to say a word, because Hollywood is doing their work for them. This is a massive propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party.
The story of the film industry’s submission to the CCP is a familiar one. In the past two decades, China has emerged as the world’s largest box office. The CCP has long tightly controlled access to that lucrative market—both through quotas on American films, imposed in violation of China’s WTO obligations, and a strict censorship regime. Increasingly, Hollywood also relies on Chinese money for financing. In 2018, films with Chinese investors accounted for 20 percent of U.S. box-office ticket sales, compared to only 3.8 percent five years earlier.
But in the long run, as with other American industries, the PRC may be less interested in cooperating with Hollywood than co-opting Hollywood—and eventually replacing it with its own homegrown productions. To accomplish this, the CCP has been following its usual modus operandi. By imposing a quota on American films, the CCP pressures Hollywood studios to form joint ventures with Chinese companies, who then gain access to U.S. technology and know-how. As one Chinese film executive recently put it, “[e]verything we learned, we learned from Hollywood.” Notably, in 2019, eight of the 10 top-grossing films in China were produced in China.
Hollywood is far from alone in kowtowing to the PRC. America’s big tech companies have also allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.
In the year 2000, when the United States normalized trade relations with China, President Clinton hailed the new century as one in which “liberty will be spread by cell phone and cable modem.” Instead, over the course of the next decade, American companies such as Cisco helped the Communist Party build the Great Firewall of China—the world’s most sophisticated system for Internet surveillance and censorship.
Over the years, corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP. For example, Apple recently removed the news app Quartz from its app store in China, after the Chinese government complained about coverage of the Hong Kong democracy protests. Apple also removed apps for virtual private networks, which had allowed users to circumvent the Great Firewall, and eliminated pro-democracy songs from its Chinese music store. Meanwhile, the company announced that it would be transferring some of its iCloud data to servers in China, despite concerns that the move would give the CCP easier access to e-mails, text messages, and other user information stored in the cloud.
There’s a lot more, so you can watch AG Barr’s full speech below or read his full transcript here: