One of the biggest shifts of the past decade has been that of China being a major producer to the rest of the world to being a major consumer for the rest of the world. And nowhere has that been more apparent than in the consumption of media and entertainment services.
The Chinese middle class is large and growing, and it has more disposable income than ever before. Movies that used to be made with US audiences in mind are increasingly being made with Chinese consumers in mind too. And failing in the Chinese market can cost some production studios dearly.
Sony found that out the hard way recently with their latest movie in the Spider-Man series, Spider-Man: No Way Home. One of the film’s major action sequences features numerous scenes on and around the Statue of Liberty. But Chinese officials found that to be too patriotic, and demanded that Sony remove the Statue of Liberty from the film.
Sony refused, and China asked that the presence of the Statue of Liberty be minimized. Sony once again refused, and didn’t release the movie in China. As a result, Sony likely lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
At the end of the day, however, the film grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide, so Sony wasn’t harmed too badly. But it was only because of Sony’s strong position that they were able to counter Chinese censors.
You can see why other and smaller companies who could stand to lose significant amounts of money end up kowtowing to China, changing their films or their products to cater to Chinese demands. Not every company has the financial wherewithal to thumb its nose at China’s demands, and the Chinese government knows it.
So don’t be surprised to hear about more instances in which the Chinese government dictates the content of TV shows or movies and gets its way. With companies placing more emphasis on earning money than in standing up to autocratic regimes, selling out to China could only grow worse as time goes on.