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As Beijing cracks down on its entertainment industry, from storied stars to their fan clubs, some non-Chinese filmmakers are scaling back projects they hoped would attract audiences in what has been a lucrative market. In February 2020, Chinese authorities released "Detailed Rules for Reviewing Internet Variety Program Content." Addressing TV and internet program makers, the guidelines say they "should not inappropriately use stars from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan or foreign countries."
Some Chinese celebrities interpreted the rules to mean they had to relinquish dual citizenship and demonstrate their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party if they wanted to continue performing in China. Actor and singer Nicholas Tse, who moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a child, said last week in an interview on state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) that he was renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Other celebrities in the Chinese market who hold dual citizenship are reportedly considering following his lead. For others in the entertainment business, the guidelines have prompted a decoupling with China, even as the film industry has been accused of pandering to the country that was the world's largest movie market in 2020, and China eyes the global film market.
'Netflix is not in China'
Adam Sandler, an American actor, screenwriter, and producer, changed the setting of his forthcoming Netflix comedy "Hustle" from China to Spain because, as he said last month on "The Dan Patrick Show," "Netflix is not in China."
A description of "Hustle" can be found on the entertainment industry website IMDB: "A washed-up basketball scout discovers a phenomenal streetball player while in China and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA." IMDB has yet to identify the film's shooting location. The movie is part of a four-film deal with Sandler that Netflix announced in January. Neither Netflix nor Sandler responded to VOA Mandarin's request for comment.
Adam Sandler, an American actor, screenwriter, and producer, changed the setting of his forthcoming Netflix comedy "Hustle" from China to Spain because, as he said last month on "The Dan Patrick Show," "Netflix is not in China. VOA
Clayton Dube, director of the University of Southern California's U.S.-China Institute, told VOA in an email, "Since Netflix is in Spain and other European or Spanish-speaking markets, it asked Sandler to change the setting of his film hoping that it might be able to use that to spark potential subscriber interest."
Like many American entertainment companies, Netflix didn't crack the Chinese market. In 2017, Netflix signed a content licensing agreement with iQiyi, a Chinese streaming platform, for a subset of Netflix's original series. Two years later, the partnership fell apart. In an interview with CNBC last September, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said the streaming company has been focusing on growth opportunities in the rest of the world but not in China. A year earlier, Hastings said the company had been spending more money on acquiring rights to Mandarin-language content and producing its own original works in Mandarin to appeal to Mandarin speakers outside China.
In an interview with CNBC last September, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said the streaming company has been focusing on growth opportunities in the rest of the world but not in China. VOA
"Netflix tried for years to enter the Chinese market, but it understands now that China's government is not going to permit foreign entertainment platforms to compete with those it controls. Further, it has tightened rules governing foreign content on Chinese platforms," Dube said. Aynne Kokas, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, told VOA Mandarin in a phone interview that celebrities in the U.S. and China are facing different types of pressure under the crackdown.
"I think that from a financial standpoint, U.S. firms are definitely examining their exposure in China and considering how much they invest and how much they depend on the Chinese market," she said. "But there isn't a requirement from the U.S. government — or even a tacit requirement from the U.S. government — that asks them to stop operating in China in the entertainment section." On the other hand, China's laws covering entertainment can require the advancement of "China's national values, which puts a different type of pressure on Chinese celebrities," she added.
Ignoring China at a cost
But how much does the Western entertainment industry, especially Hollywood, stand to lose if it backs away from the Chinese market? It's almost impossible to estimate because some films that flop in the U.S. may turn a profit after a Chinese market release, according to Wendy Su, an associate professor and expert in Chinese media studies at the University of California-Riverside. "Dwayne Johnson's 'Rampage'  grossed $101 million in the United States but $156 million in China," she said. Some in the entertainment business, however, have already opted out of trying to appease the Chinese government to gain access to the market, according to Su.
Director Quentin Tarantino "refused to observe China's censorship requirement and believed his movie 'Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood' could earn enough profits without the Chinese market," she said. VOA
Director Quentin Tarantino "refused to observe China's censorship requirement and believed his movie 'Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood' could earn enough profits without the Chinese market," she said. Released in July 2019, the Oscar-winning film Tarantino wrote and directed earned $139 million domestically and $357.4 million worldwide by the end of October, according to Forbes.
Stanley Rosen, a political science professor at the University of Southern California, told VOA in a virtual interview that the loss for companies such as Netflix may be bearable. For the Chinese film sector, Rosen said, "you have to also take into account that there is a quota system: 34 revenue-sharing films a year, 14 of which have to be IMAX and/or 3D. So that limits the market, to begin with. Then all the studios are fighting to get their share of the quota." In the TV industry, the main Chinese streaming services once showed more than 100 foreign TV series without censorship. Now that practice has been "very severely restricted after new regulations began to be introduced in 2014 that would make it even more difficult for Netflix [to get in]," Rosen said.
Today "you have to submit the whole season in advance with subtitles when censorship occurs if they allow you to show it," Rosen continued. "So Netflix is not losing what they might have lost when they first tried to get into China when the market was much more open."
Netflix is not losing what they might have lost when they first tried to get into China when the market was much more open." Photo by Thibault Penin on Unsplash
What China needs from US
While many experts agree that the U.S. and China are mutually dependent in the entertainment sector, Katherine Chu, a lecturer at California State University-Dominguez Hills, whose research interests include Chinese/Asian film studies, emphasized that China, for now, needs the U.S. for its platform, established studios, talent, and technology. She said these U.S. resources could help China with its "aggressive plan to dominate the fair market in 2035."
In May 2019, Beijing called for the production of 100 movies a year that each would earn more than RMB 100 million ($15 million), according to Variety, an authoritative entertainment industry news outlet. "A country's level of film development reflects its total national strength," said Wang Xiaohui, executive deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department and director of the National Film Bureau, when announcing the movie production goal, according to the state-controlled People's Daily. The Chinese movie industry wants "maybe just a small thing, like a scriptwriter — how to write a film that you can target the world's audience," Chu said. "Because the Chinese, they try very hard to copy the Hollywood model and then to sell their Chinese films."
(Article originally Written by Adrianna Zhang) (VOA/MBI)
Keywords: China, Netflix, Entertainment, Market, Movies, US, Market
In July 1971, US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China to meet top Chinese leaders. This inaugurated a new phase not just in US-China relations but in contemporary history. That visit and the subsequent US-China relationship, including the US decision to invest in China's economic rise and admit it into the World Trade Organisation, combined to firm up the foundations of China's rise as a world power.
For more than four decades, the leadership of the two countries had a secretive pact, which worked well to each other's benefit. The US helped power China's economic growth in the hope that Beijing would turn a new political leaf and adopt Western practices (e.g. democracy). China grew economically and militarily, used its financial prowess to spread its influence across continents, as four generations of Chinese leaders built their nation at the expense of the US.
Half a century after Kissinger's historic visit, the US and China are today engaged in a trade war bordering on a new Cold War. Washington is not openly talking about "de-coupling" from China, which has begun to challenge its global dominance, but it might very well be. China has already established itself as a dominant power across Eurasia.
More worryingly, China is militarily and economically threatening its neighbours, including India, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
"A New Cold War: Henry Kissinger and the Rise of China" (HarperCollins), edited by Sanjaya Baru and Rahul Sharma, a collection of critical essays examines the impact, consequences and legacy of Kissinger's first, door-opening visit to China and how it has shaped world order.
It has contributions from Kanti Bajpai, Hoo Tiang Boon, Sujan Chinoy, Bill Emmott, Frric Grare, Suhasini Haidar, Quah Say Jye, Tsutomu Kikuchi, Chung Min Lee, Tanvi Madan, Kishore Mahbubani, Kalpit A. Mankikar, Rana Mitter, C. Raja Mohan, Samir Saran, Teresita Schaffer, Ayesha Siddiqa, Peter Varghese and Igor Yurgens
"Marking the 50th anniversary of the Nixon-Kissinger outreach to China, this unique collection of essays by eminent scholars and diplomats from around the world offers critical perspectives on America's contribution to China's rise and the origins of the New Cold War," says Sanjaya Baru.
Rahul Sharma says: "Kissinger's was a path-breaking visit, which changed the world forever. China's rise is a reality that the world will continue to grapple with for a long time to come. The essays in this book attempt to analyse what prompted the Americans to open the doors to China, as well as the challenges that it has created for just about every nation today."
Swati Chopra, Executive Editor, HarperCollins India, says: "There is no doubt today of the impact that one man has had on the geopolitics of the past few decades - Henry Kissinger. His contribution to the rise of China is perhaps a lesser-known aspect of this, which is what "A New Cold War" is about."
With incisive essays from credible voices from around the globe, this is exactly the book that we need to understand the evolution of the US-China relationship, its contribution to China's rise, the consequences for China's neighbourhood (including India), and why we might be on the verge of a new Cold War," Chopra adds.
Sanjaya Baru is a political commentator, author, former newspaper editor and policy analyst. He was the media advisor to former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, and visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore. He was a member of India's National Security Advisory Board in 1998-2001. His publications include "Strategic Consequences of India's Economic Performance (2006)".
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Rahul Sharma is a former newspaper editor who now advises corporates on public affairs, policy issues, business and communication strategy. He is a keen China watcher since his days as a wire agency correspondent and editor in Asia and has sustained his deep interest in international affairs, global diplomacy and the economy. A co-founder and former President of the Public Affairs Forum of India, he also curates a foreign policy blog in his free time. (IANS/AD)
The competition over marine resources and territorial claims has led to conflict in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Chinese expansionism, its growing presence in the Philippines and jurisdictional claims over areas in the South China Sea has escalated tension in the area. In an interview with N.W. Ali, Prof Jay L. Batongbacal, Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS) at the University of the Philippines, says the current situation in the South China Sea is concerning due to the power imbalance in the region, which is shifting the axis of power for the smaller states in South East Asia and presents a potential threat to their territorial sovereignty and maritime jurisdictions.
N.W. Ali: Please explain the functional framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the prospects of UN intervention, such as by sending military personnel to the South China Sea, to maintain and protect the territorial integrity of states and avoid the bullying on part of China?
Jay L Batongbacal: UNCLOS has laid down the framework for coastal states to follow in determining their maritime zones and boundaries. According to its provisions, within 200 nautical miles from the coast, the waters form part of the Exclusive Economic Zone, while the seafloor is part of the continental shelf of the coastal state, and exclusive sovereign rights to the natural resources in those areas are reserved for those individual states. A breach of UNCLOS or a dispute arising between the coastal states does not necessarily mean that immediate military action on part of the UN will follow. However, all states are responsible for resolving their disputes by UNCLOS. UN military intervention can only be involved in case of scenarios of a potential outbreak of violence or security that threatens the region; for the UN to jump in to resolve the disputes, the situation must be really serious. For now, no country wants an armed conflict.
Ali: What is the genesis of the 9 Dash Line and why is China proclaiming features in the South China Sea as its own?
Jay: China's claim to the island chains is not new and has been there for a few decades now. The history of the claim can be traced to a map published by the Kuomintang Government, based on the maps and cartographic books published by some private firms, entitled "Map of the South Sea Islands," in 1947. The dashed lines used by China to illustrate their claimed historical right was drawn as a part of this map to illustrate the territorial extent of China. The Chinese claim at that time, though, was limited to small scattered islands in the South China Sea. The position of the Kuomintang Government about the territorial extent was adopted by the Mainland Government in China in 1952. Not having much of the background information on these, the mainland just named the islands within the dashed line, the Nansha (the Spratlys), Xisha (the Paracels), Dongsha (Pratas), and Zhongsha (an imaginary island group with no physical existence and is a misinterpretation of Macclesfield Bank and other submerged feature in the South China Sea). China has never been able to adequately justify the claim to these island groups, primarily as they never exercised sovereignty over them over an extended period and also due to the existence of non-factual and imaginary claims over fictitious islands.
Things began to get serious in 2009 when all of the countries in South East Asia implemented UNCLOS and aligned their respective claims and jurisdictions by international law. China reacted badly as they knew if UNCLOS is implemented, their expansive claim to the South China Sea will be defunct, so thereafter China embarked on a program to strengthen their presence and activity in the South China Sea, which led to more friction between China and smaller Southeast Asian States. The situation worsened when China began to interfere with activities in the exclusive economic zones of smaller States, and altercations were reported closer to the coasts of smaller states. The 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident, involving a standoff between the Philippines and China, is one of the more recent examples of the escalation, and China's attempt to exercise jurisdictional rights as far as the edge of 9 dash lines. Scarborough Shoal is the only place near its imaginary archipelago, having some features above water, and thus very precious for China to prove their claims within the 9-dash line.
Ali: How about the jurisdictional rights of China over the South China Sea?
Jay: China's jurisdictional claims before 2016 proclaimed that the areas within the 9-dash line were Chinese territory by historic title. They claimed to be the first to sail this sea and discover those islands and to administer them about controlling and harnessing them. However, the international arbitral tribunal debunked this claim of China, as no other nation has thus far accepted China's sovereignty over the South China Sea, not even in historical times.
Ali: In the light of the tribunal ruling, how could UNCLOS lead to de-escalation in the South China Sea?
Jay: The growing conflict and competition for marine resources makes imperative the implementation of UNCLOS, especially in the South China Sea and elsewhere. The friction between states can be reduced by not considering the islands to extend the exclusive economic zones and continental shelf claims of the claimant countries. Thus, the claims would not result in too many overlapping maritime zones, which reduces the chances of disputes by diminishing the areas wherein more than one state can exercise their exclusive sovereign rights. The UN must play its part and support the implementation of UNCLOS as binding international law and give peace a sustainable chance to flourish.
Ali: What about the plans of Chaboutd to the Arctic? And why is it on China's priority list?
Jay: Global warming has opened up the Arctic, allowing ships to pass through; this means it is opening up new trade routes between the East and West and vice versa. If the Arctic shipping routes open, China would have alternative maritime trade routes other than the South China Sea which is the doorway for China to the Indian Ocean, Africa and Europe. This has interested China, so it has concerned itself with the geopolitical and scientific developments related to Artic.
Ali: How are the states surrounding the Arctic concerned about the Chinese naval buildup in the Arctic?
Jay: The countries surrounding the Arctic may be worried about the Chinese Navy and the potential for military buildup in the Arctic because of what happened with the port in Djibouti-Africa, where what started as a civilian port project eventually hosted a military supply base. China's growing interest in the Arctic trade routes may create friction points. China will have a tough time convincing the states surrounding the Artic about building ports since the different countries are still divided over allowing any access through the Arctic. The US is also concerned about China's dual use of technology for trade and military purposes, and this will make it difficult for China to establish ports with any countries in that area. Chinese Arctic policy can lead to the emergence of fresh flashpoints in the future given the divided opinion over access through the Arctic. Russia and United States are among the states who favour fully opening up Artic for naval and maritime trade activities, while concerned states like Canada are against it since large parts of the Arctic are considered to be Canadian territory by Canada.
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(Professor Jay L. Batongbacal is Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS) at the University of the Philippines (UP). Batongbacal obtained his LL.B. (1991) from UP College of Law, and Masters in Marine Management (1997) and a Doctorate in the Science of Law (2010) from Dalhousie University in Canada. Professor Batongbacal was a member of the technical team that prepared and defended the Philippines' claim to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise Region, made in a Submission filed with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) under the provisions of Article 76 of the Law of the Sea Convention.) (IANS/AD)
The recent attacks by Taliban in Baghlan, Farah, Kunduz, Herat, Takhar, Helmand, Ghazni and Badakhshan provinces and the capture of Dala dam which supplies water to Kandahar town should be a curtain-raiser for those who ardently watch the story unfold in Afghanistan.
As of May 1, 139 pro-government and 44 civilians had lost their lives in just a week alone. On April 14, 2021, President Joe Biden promised to end the "Forever war" by announcing a full US pullout on September 11, 2021, largely out of symbolism to commemorate the 20th year of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). But soon after the announcement, it is becoming apparent that the US has not thought through the larger implications of this decision.
It is quite apparent that even the US army is surprised by the sudden turn of events. The confusion in the US army is compounded by the contradictory statements emerging from the US military leadership.
"It's not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls," said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while speaking at the Pentagon on 6 May 2021 even as Afghan Army causalities began to mount in Taliban attacks within the week. He even came out in support of the ANDSF and their capabilities announcing that "I'm a personal witness -- that the Afghan security forces can fight," Milley, who had previously served in Afghanistan, added.
"We've been supporting them, for sure, but they've been leading the fight."
That is not how a former US commander who crafted US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus assess the situation. In an interview, he said, "I do fear that two to three years from now we are going to look back and regret the decision to withdraw the remaining 3,500 US troops," enthusing no confidence in the abilities of the ANDSF to stabilise Afghanistan post the withdrawal.
He even predicted the return of ISIS and believed, "This is not going to end the endless war in Afghanistan; it is going to end the US and the coalition involvement in that war militarily" and warned of a resurgence of Daesh.
For instance, the recent Taliban attacks have seen desperate calls for the Afghan Air Force to assist the ground troops in fighting the Taliban. The Afghan Air Force is almost entirely dependent on the US for its force sustenance and would be ineffective unless this support is assured. The US has indicated that it would be capable of supporting operations from its air bases nearby Afghanistan like the Middle East and has been actively courting Uzbekistan as a possible destination. But that does in no way mitigate the problems of keeping the Afghan Air Force in the air. Gen Mark Milley accepts that "[M]aintaining logistic support to the Afghan Air Force is a key test that we have to sort out", and even hinted that some contractors could return to Afghanistan after the withdrawal is complete.
The SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) report released on April 30, 2021, stated that the Afghan Air Force could be grounded "within months without the current level of contractor support".(italics mine). The SIGAR report is more candid as it quotes US military leadership expressing their reservations and concerns at the capabilities of the ANDSF to defend Afghanistan. Consider these statements in the run-up to Biden's speech of April 14, 2021.
On February 20, 2021, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin linked the US withdrawal to a reduction in Taliban attacks. "The violence must decrease now."
The same day, on February 20, 2021, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, in a meeting with Pakistani officials, warned that an early US pullout could risk the collapse of the Afghan government.
On March 13, 2021, the commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller, expressed concerns at the capabilities of the Afghan air force saying that "When you start talking about removing our presence... certain things like air, air support, and maintenance of that air support become more and more problematic".
On March 25, 2021, General Richard Clarke, Commander, US Special Operations Command accepted the Taliban have not upheld their end of the Doha accord and said: "It's clear the Taliban have not upheld what they said they would do and reduce the violence. It is clear they took a deliberate approach and increased their violence since the peace accords were signed."
On April 20, 2021, the Commander of US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, while testifying at a House Armed Services Committee stated that "Everyone will leave. All US defence contractors will leave as part of the withdrawal."
The contradictions are visible. Violence has climbed by 37 per cent in the first quarter as compared to last year. Concerning Gen Kenneth McKenzie's statement, it is now clear that as many as 17,000 contractors, approximately 6000 of whom are US citizens are in Afghanistan will be permitted to renegotiate their contracts. The Economic Times comments that the Pentagon was toying with the option of turning over some contracts, particularly maintenance contracts presently effected by US contractors to Afghan control.
Even the CIA Director William Burns acceded during a hearing that "[W]hen the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish... That is simply a fact."
Even the Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, released as recent as April 9, 2021, and tabled before Biden's announcement, assessed that the possibility of the success of an intra-Afghan deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban "will remain low during the next year," and that "the Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the Coalition withdraws support." The Report expressed serious reservations about the capabilities of the ANDSF and concludes that the ANDSF "continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory."
Almost as if on cue, and in complete synchronisation with the US, NATO too ordered its drawdown from Afghanistan, clearly aligning its interests with the US and showing how bereft the EU is of an independent Afghan policy as well as the limitations of its military reach and capabilities. Almost immediately after Biden's announcement, on the same day, at a joint press conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO ministers "decided that we will start the withdrawal of NATO Resolute Support forces by May 1... We plan to complete the drawdown of all our troops within a few months."
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The military leadership did not approve of or never sensed the impending announcement by the President. In any case, if indeed they made a pitch to the President, he has overruled their advice.
The US withdrawal, as it unfolds at the present, is confusing and portends ill for the future of Afghanistan. (IANS/AD)