A Republican congressman is once again working to counter how the Chinese Communist Party attempts to influence Hollywood and its filmmaking decisions.
Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., reintroduced the Stopping Communist Regimes from Engaging in Edits Now Act, or SCREEN Act, on Wednesday.
“Since I introduced the SCREEN Act in [February 2022], the Communist Chinese Party escalated attempts to censor free speech in the United States. The CCP will not make our film industry an arm of its propaganda machine,” Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a press release.
“One bright spot in Hollywood is the way Paramount stood up to the CCP when asked to censor ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’ Now, this film has been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and was the highest grossing domestic release of 2022,” Green said. “We need more studios willing to put Beijing in its place. My legislation will create the incentive for more Hollywood studios to take a stand against Communist China.”
Many high budget films rely on help from the U.S. government for filming and technical assistance; with my legislation, this assistance will no longer be available if these studios kowtow to Beijing.
American studios shouldn’t be creating CCP propaganda and if they choose to do so, they shouldn’t be receiving help from the U.S. government to do it.
The bill would specifically “limit the use of funds for the production of films using assets of the Department of State under certain circumstances, and for other purposes.”
Furthermore, the bill “prevents the federal government from assisting studios in Hollywood with the production of a film if that film is co-produced by a Chinese company,” according to the press release.
The bill requires certain conditions for State Department funding, such as a studio’s agreement not to censor films at the CCP’s request and a clean record of not having substantially edited films at the CCP’s request.
Mike Gonzalez, the Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, weighed in on the legislation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
“We have to do all we can to prevent having American viewing audiences indoctrinated into CCP propaganda,” Gonzalez told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “Ultimately, the responsibility lies with Hollywood itself, but our government has an important role to play here.”
President Joe Biden, with the support of both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law in December. Section 1257 of the NDAA “[prohibits the] use of funds to support entertainment projects with ties to the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”
“We’ve seen for several years Hollywood studios tripping over themselves to please the Chinese government, and their chances of actually being allowed to show a given film in China [are] actually quite low,” Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an interview.
Cunningham noted that China has “a really strict quota” on the number of foreign films its theaters may show in a given year, so studios try “to please the Chinese government, to minimize the chance that they will not be able to show a certain film and to maximize the chance that the Chinese authorities will actually like it, and be happy to show it.”
Cunningham pointed to Disney’s “Mulan” and Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” as recent examples of Hollywood navigating the Chinese government.
“With ‘Mulan,’ they managed to offend—they tripped over themselves not to offend—China, but they actually managed to offend most of the world because of the Xinjiang issue,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham was referring to Disney’s decision to film parts of “Mulan” in the Xinjiang province of China, infamous for the detention of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims.
“Then they managed to offend the Hong Kongers because the lead actress spoke out against the Hong Kong protests in favor of Beijing and the Hong Kong government,” he said. “And then the Chinese people didn’t even like it because they thought … that the plot and setting were not in line with actual history in China, and so they didn’t win.”
“Meanwhile, you’ve got ‘Top Gun’ that initially looked like it was going to bend over backwards to please the Chinese government, and then when the film actually came out, they realized a movie that is glorifying the U.S. military is not going to be let into China at this time anyway,” Cunningham said. “So, they just threw caution to the wind and the result was that the whole world loved the movie.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has similarly worked to counter the influence of “Chinese censorship” through legislation he introduced back in 2020.
“For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship and propaganda in the name of bigger profits,” Cruz said at the time. “[The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies] Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China.”
Disney did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
“As a matter of practice, we do not comment on pending legislation,” a State Department spokesperson told The Daily Signal in an email.
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