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US and China head to deepen Art and Cultural ties, China to Invest in Hollywood

In August, Fenton will be taking a group of U.S. lawmakers to China to look at the country's growing entertainment and media industry, with the hope of even more Chinese investment in Hollywood

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U.S. first lady Melania Trump and China's first lady Peng Liyuan listen as students perform for them during a visit to Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida,Source-VOA
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Los Angeles, May 24, 2017: On the political and military front, U.S.-China relations have been an often-tense dance between governments. However, in arts and education, many say the relationship is deepening. There is debate among Americans as to whether the ties are positive or negative.

Some say this is progress that is reaping economic and cultural benefits for citizens in both countries.

“When people collaborate on making anything artistic, there’s an emotional pull inside of that and if it works well, you not only have a great business, you also have a great diplomatic cohesion between the two countries,” said Chris Fenton, U.S.-Asia Institute Trustee and the President of DMG Entertainment.

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In August, Fenton will be taking a group of U.S. lawmakers to China to look at the country’s growing entertainment and media industry, with the hope of even more Chinese investment in Hollywood.

On Jan. 21, 2011, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the The Confucius Institute which is housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago.
On Jan. 21, 2011, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao visits The Confucius Institute which is housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago. VOA

 

Chinese language and culture

China has also been investing in educating Americans in language and culture through its Confucius Institutes. Mandarin immersion kindergarten teacher Carol Chen says the University of California Los Angeles Confucius Institute has been a good resource for her and her students.

“For example, books and also resources of our Chinese cultures. One of the years, they actually brought Chinese folk culture tradition to the campus,” said Chen, who teaches at Broadway Elementary, a dual language immersion school.

Funded by the Chinese government, there are nearly 500 Confucius Institutes globally, most on university campuses. The UCLA Confucius Institute taps into the local Mandarin-speaking population to develop a pipeline of Mandarin teachers. It also provides cross-cultural programs in the arts.

“Bringing more artists together and exposing them to each other’s culture and to shared cultural experience with China, you’re sort of training, sort of a new generation of diplomats,” said Susan Pertel Jain, UCLA Confucius Institute Executive Director.

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But long-time critic and academic Perry Link says Confucius Institutes are an example of China’s soft power.

“Soft power is cultural or educational things that cause people in other countries to view one’s own country in a more friendly way. To reach out into the world with soft power is a new thing from the Chinese government’s point of view, but an important thing because the rest of the successful world seems to be doing it,” said Link, who is the University of California Riverside’s Chancellorial Chair for Innovation in Teaching Across Disciplines.

But Link says the presence of the Confucius Institutes on university campuses is dangerous because it often limits academic freedom to discuss China’s human rights issues.

“It’s induced self-censorship. That is, ‘We are going to give you these funds and you can invite speakers about China and the fund comes from Beijing and you know that and we know that.’ Now, as the director of a Confucius Institute, do you think, ‘Oh, I’ll invite the Dalai Lama’ to speak? No.Of course you don’t do that,” Link said.

But Jain said the UCLA Confucius Institute does not back away from touchy topics.

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“Whether it’s artists that we present there who were active in sort of [an] anti-government movement or whether it’s the screening of films that are maybe not officially approved by the government, we don’t shy away from that, but what we always tell our colleagues in China is that we promise to always present everything in a fair and balanced way,” said Jain.

The Hollywood Sign is pictured Aug. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles.

The Hollywood Sign is pictured Aug. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles.

Entertainment industry

In the past, Hollywood movies have been America’s example of soft power.

Last fall, 16 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office to express national security concerns about the growing number of Chinese investments in the United States, including in the media and entertainment industry.

“There is definitely a self-censorship. There is no doubt. I think the most obvious version of that was when self-censorship was not used and it really backfired,” said Fenton.

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China is close to becoming the top global market at the box office and one that is much desired by Hollywood executives. If China closes that door to certain production studios in Hollywood, it will hurt financially.

“It’s a very large piece of the pie because it’s roughly seven billion in dollars,” Fenton said. “If you’re thinking like a business person, there is a certain creative vision you should have for the content you’re making that if you want to call it self-censorship that’s fine, or you call it just good business.”(VOA)

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative

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Top Hollywood women unveiled a sexual harassment initiative
A combination photo shows some of the actresses who have made allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Listed in alphabetical order, top row from left, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Cara Delevingne, Romola Garai, Judith Godreche, Heather Graham, Angelina Jolie. VOA

USA, Jan 1, 2018: More than 300 top women in Hollywood — from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett — unveiled an initiative Monday to tackle pervasive sexual harassment in workplaces, calling special attention to their “sisters” in less than glamorous blue-collar jobs.

The initiative, dubbed Time’s Up, caps a year in which the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal touched off a deluge of allegations that brought down powerful men in entertainment, politics and the media, prompting companies, government agencies and even the U.S. federal court system to re-examine harassment policies.

But in an open letter printed in The New York Times, the new initiative lends the star power of its A-list members to the cause of women in less prominent fields, urging support and respect for farm workers and others whose humble positions leave them vulnerable and voiceless.

“We fervently urge the media covering the disclosures by people in Hollywood to spend equal time on the myriad experiences of individuals working in less glamorized and valorized trades,” the group says in its full-page ad.

“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile … we stand with you. We support you.”

$15 million goal

Last month, the head of Ford Motor Company apologized to employees at two factories in Chicago and promised changes, after a scathing expose by the Timesdetailed pervasive harassment and mistreatment of women at the plants dating back to the 1990s. It was one of the first major media investigations into sexual harassment in blue-collar workplaces.

Among the specific steps it announced, Time’s Up has established a legal defense fund that, in just 12 days, has raised $13.4 million toward a $15 million goal aimed at providing legal aid for women and men who were sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace.

It has vowed to push for legislation to strengthen laws on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The group insists that more women must be brought into positions of power and leadership, while every woman should have equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation.

As for Hollywood, it wants “swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone.”

And it called on women to wear black at Sunday’s Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality, and to raise awareness about the group’s efforts.

‘Dear Sisters’ 

The open letter in the Times, which also appears in the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with the words “Dear Sisters” in large, bold type, and closes with the words “in solidarity,” followed by the names of the 300 women.

Several of Weinstein’s accusers signed the open letter. They include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, as well as Salma Hayek, whose lengthy account of mistreatment by Weinstein — “my monster,” she called him — was widely circulated on social media after appearing last month in The New York Times.

Weinstein has denied some of the allegations, including Hayek’s assertion that he pressured her to do a nude sex scene in one movie.

Other prominent women lending their names to the Time’s Up cause are actresses Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Amy Schumer, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman and Viola Davis; producer Shonda Rhimes; Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley; feminist activist Gloria Steinem; lawyer and ex-Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel. (VOA)