Every day seems like the worst day in the US-China relationship. Nor does it seem impossible that the decline of the dramatists. That has put Hollywood in an increasingly difficult situation, as the increasingly greedy film market, which once promised great growth, now seems to be caught in the tension of the Internet.
The relationship may be tested further this week meeting members of Congress with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen in California. On this same trip, the group will meet Disney CEO Bob Iger and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
I’m referring to the head of that delegation, Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., who sits on the Select Committee on Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve spent over 20 years entrenched in the Hollywood-China dynamic, and I’m one of many in the industry who have helped educate Washington in the complex bilateral battle over that time. (My work with the battle commission has been resolved.)
I remember a happier time in Washington and Beijing: it was already ten years ago when Joe Biden and Xi Jinping – both vice-presidents of the countries at the time – sat down in Los Angeles. to negotiate a new film treaty which allowed American films to enter the country.
That was probably the tipping point in the relationship, as even before Donald Trump took office, Washington officials were rethinking the growing US-China relationship. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, has been pushing for restrictions around Chinese businesses investing and operating in the US, and it has made a big, public issue. Recent audiences on TikTok are just one example of an impact that began nearly eight years ago.
Gallagher calls for a strategic rebalancing of US-China relations and hopes to enlist private aid. There was a back-and-forth struggle between supporters of bilateral competition and those who sought to stifle China’s rise. Now the shooters are coming up.
The status quo is unacceptable. In Hollywood, access to the Chinese market has meant tolerating global criticism of Beijing and quietly elevating pro-China narratives. At the same time, the industry received insufficient revenue-sharing agreements and conditions, as several Chinese firms took on Disney and Universal theme parks in the country. Then IP abuse and outright theft of key technology.
But full decoupling is not the answer. There are five forces that hold nations marching towards war. Think of them like cell-phone service: the rarer the bars, the weaker the connection. The two countries need at least one force, or lever, working to maintain the connection. Three of those five forces are politics, national security and human rights: “we’re not going to get a lot of attention on any of them.”
But the other two forces are civilization and commerce. And those barriers, because they are still there now, transmit signals between the two powers.
Hollywood sits as the center of culture and commerce. Beyond the purely transactional, culture adds emotion and human connection, fostering a much stronger bond between nations. Cultural and trade ties are stronger than, for example, the fragile national security and trade relations we have with Saudi Arabia. And it’s certainly better than the bars of service we currently share with Russia or North Korea.
That’s why Hollywood must be part of the solution. By working together, our community can help keep those two vital links closed while helping to design policies and regulations so that we can survive as an industry.
Without a healthy cooperation with Washington, I fear Hollywood will try to continue the status quo, as China continues to impose pressure on its mass market, forcing widespread industry compliance, as its domestic industry continues to rise, and to tear into American theaters and television networks.
We can’t have “one team, two systems” like Stanford Jacob Helberg It is set where the industries in China are trying to organize and it is being carried out as usual elsewhere. Now the Hollywood Congress is eyeing film and TV censorship, exporting it to China and questioning the practice sharply. Such close government scrutiny of policies and laws could lead to most or all bilateral cultural trade with China, where no one wins and we lose the middle link.
Gallagher believes that in selected elections, companies can avoid this “one foot in two, separating category ships”. By devising practical, constructive rules to level the bilateral playing field and protect national security policies, American values and principles can be lovingly fulfilled. But it is only possible if the business community steps up to help.
With tensions running high over everything from the state of Taiwan to the global semiconductor industry, much is at stake. It is very important to remember that China is a nuclear superpower. Gaslight and heated rhetoric are not produced, nor is the hawk a fugitive. We need to stand on our assets and our key industries.
That’s why I’m asking my peers in the hospitality industry to partner on a voluntary mission. Success depends on our public and private leaders bringing their A-game together as a team to effectively compete with China. Meetings between key Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington players this week are just the beginning of the work ahead.