One of the stars of the latest Fast and Furious film referred in passing to Taiwan as a “country” on Taiwanese TV earlier this month, prompting fury on the Chinese social media site Weibo. But the megastar actor and wrestler John Cena “accidentally told the truth”, says Sonny Bunch in The Washington Post. Cena is a big deal – he has 15 million Instagram followers and is worth an estimated $60m – but studio bosses will be terrified that he has jeopardised the Fast and Furious franchise, which has grossed $6bn and counting. The 44-year-old subsequently apologised in Mandarin, which is “disheartening but not surprising”. China has been getting extraordinary concessions from western film-makers for years. Check out Tom Cruise’s famous flight jacket in the forthcoming Top Gun sequel – its flag patches for Taiwan and Japan have strangely disappeared.
Hollywood seems to have decided that “bowing and scraping” is a small price to pay for access to China’s huge film market. The studios are paying a “values tariff”: instead of stumping up money to get to Chinese customers, they “compromise their values”. This is important because Beijing now exercises “a remarkable amount of power” – not just over what Chinese audiences can be told about China, but what the world can see. It looks as if President Biden is going to side with Taiwan in defence of its independence from China. Now let’s see if “Hollywood can find the courage to tell the truth abroad as well as at home”.
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