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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ brings Taiwan flag back to Tom Cruise’s jacket after removing it for China

Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in "Top Gun: Maverick." (Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures/TNS)
June 02, 2022

The producers of the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick” restored the Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches on the bomber jacket worn by Tom Cruise’s character, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, after previously removing them from early promotional materials for the movie to avoid angering Chinese investors and censors.

The Taiwanese and Japanese flags were featured on Maverick’s jacket in the original 1986 naval aviation classic “Top Gun” but were removed in a 2019 trailer for the long-awaited sequel. The removal of the patches caused some observers to speculate that the move was done to appease Chinese Communist Party censors, who would likely view the Taiwanese flag as a symbol of the island’s independence from Chinese rule.

The original flag patch on Maverick’s jacket featured the red circle of a Japanese flag on the bottom left corner and the blue sky, white sun and red earth of the Taiwanese flag on the bottom left corner. The version seen in the early “Top Gun: Maverick” trailers showed the Japanese flag’s red circle had been changed into a red triangle, while the Taiwanese flag was turned into another unidentifiable symbol.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported the Taiwanese and Japanese flags were restored in the final U.S. version of the movie, which hit theaters this weekend after several delays.

The restoration of the flag patches also comes after the Chinese investment firm Tencent Holdings backed out of a deal to help finance the movie’s production.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tencent Holdings originally signed on to provide $170 million to finance the production of the “Top Gun” sequel, but the movie hit theaters without any mention of Tencent Holdings in its credits.

According to people familiar with the matter, Tencent Holdings backed out of the movie production after concerns grew that the pro-U.S. sentiments of an action movie franchise centered around U.S. Navy fighter pilots would upset Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Those concerns had reportedly increased amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China in recent years.

It is unclear what role Tencent Holdings’ involvement in the movie had in the exclusion of the Taiwanese and Japanese flags, or if its decision to back out of the movie had anything specifically to do with the return of the flag patches.

Ho Siu Bun, a film critic in Hong Kong, told VICE World News that the back and forth changes over the Taiwanese flag are “unprecedented” in a modern movie production.

“Major film studios have never been shy about pandering to the Chinese market,” Ho said. “And even if it is a simple scene, editing is very costly. So no one knows why they changed it back.”

Hollywood and China have seen increased cooperation on movie deals in recent years. While Hollywood moviemakers stand to gain by bringing their movies to the Chinese market, they also have to meet the approval of Chinese censors. The Wall Street Journal reported China has, thus far, not approved “Top Gun: Maverick” to hit theaters in the country.