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Pentagon won’t work with Hollywood filmmakers who bow to China’s censorship demands: Report

The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. (Dreamstime/TNS)
July 03, 2023

In an effort to challenge China’s influence on Hollywood, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently updated its regulations for assisting filmmakers, forcing them to chose between the U.S. and China.

From now on, any studio seeking production aid from the Pentagon will be required to pledge not to succumb to Chinese censorship demands for movie distribution in the country.

This recent policy shift stems from a controversy that emerged during the release of “Top Gun: Maverick” last year.

At the time, early trailers revealed that the flags of Taiwan and Japan had been removed from the main character’s flight jacket, which sparked criticism in the United States and suggested an attempt by the studio to placate the Chinese investor, Tencent.

The flags were ultimately restored in the final version after Tencent reportedly withdrew its investment.

According to Politico, this situation sparked legislative action, with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introducing a relevant clause in the 2023 Defense Policy bill.

Cruz, a vocal critic of Beijing’s film censorship, said during a Senate floor speech, “What does it say to the world when Maverick is scared of the Chinese communists?”

The Defense Department’s new guidelines, obtained by Politico, state that the DoD “will not provide production assistance when there is demonstrable evidence that the production has complied or is likely to comply with a demand from the Government of the People’s Republic of China … to censor the content of the project in a material manner to advance the national interest of the People’s Republic of China.”

This change is expected to impact the long-established relationship between Hollywood and the DoD, where mutual benefits have been derived from military-based shooting locations and positive portrayal of service members.

The recent policy changes comes as numerous American businesses, including Hollywood studios, attempt to navigate Beijing’s complex censorship rules while avoiding backlash at home in the United States.

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China’s censorship demands have often proven unpredictable for filmmakers, as evidenced by demands for removal of the Statue of Liberty from “Spider-man: No Way Home” and a short same-sex kiss from “Lightyear.” Neither studios complied with China’s demands, resulting in both films not being released in mainland China, according to CNN.

Under the new rule, the DoD will also consider any “verifiable information” from third parties, not connected to the production, indicating potential compliance with censorship demands. Once a project is approved, the production company must inform the assigned DoD officer of any censorship requests.

Senator Cruz expressed satisfaction with the updated rule, stating, “This new guidance — implementing the legislation I authored in the SCRIPT Act — will force studios to choose one or the other, and I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll make the right choice and reject China’s blackmailing.”

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.