How Communist Censors Control the Movies You See

China is on track to become the world’s largest film market and the Communist Party is gaining the power to decide which movies get made.

Once upon a time, Hollywood movies were controlled by censors who prevented them from bringing subversive and controversial subject matters into theaters. Thankfully those days are long gone now. Now Hollywood movies are censored by the officials of the Chinese Communist Party. And it’s a censorship that begins at the script stage and affects what you see on the screen.

Hollywood executives are only now becoming familiar with the censorship board and its workings. A recent count by one of their advisers found that the board has 37 members, including representatives from government agencies and interest groups, like the Communist Youth League and the Women’s Federation, along with filmmakers, academics and professional bureaucrats.

At the top of S.A.R.F.T. is Cai Fuchao, a recent member of the Communist Party Central Committee. In a previous municipal post in Beijing, he was widely reported to have policed Web sites for banned material with the help of 10,000 volunteers, and to have joined in a roundup of a million illegally published books in 2004.

Finally Hollywood’s output is coming under the control of total party discipline. We’ve actually reached the point where the Communist Party determines what appears in a Hollywood movie.

When “Kung Fu Panda 3” kicks its way into China’s theaters in 2016, the country’s vigilant film censors will find no nasty surprises. After all, they have already dropped in to monitor the movie at the DreamWorks Animation campus here. And the story line, production art and other creative elements have met their approval.


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