In spite of great pressures to change course, Donald Trump has remained generally laissez-faire in his position of non-intervention in Hong Kong. In spite of being undermined by his own deep state on the matter, Trump has consistently expressed either non-interventionist or otherwise moderate views on the matter.
Whilst Hollywood is among the most anti-Trump industries in the world, the corrupt film barons of America’s west coast should actually be celebrating the fact that Trump does not seek to chain America to the sinking ship that is the Hong Kong riots and their pie in the sky agenda. Whilst the subject is scarcely discussed in the United States, China is now the world’s second largest cinematic market and in terms of its medium and long term potential it can be thought of as the biggest in terms of the sheer number of potential ticket buyers.
China’s domestic film industry continues to grow leaps and bounds but there remains a large market in China for Hollywood films and a growing market for the films of Bollywood. When it comes to Bollywood, Pakistan has just banned the screening of all such films due to India’s unilateral annexation of Jammu and Kashmir. But whilst the loss of Bollywood’s market share in Pakistan won’t make a seismic difference to the Indian film industry, if China were to do to Hollywood what Pakistan has done to Bollywood, the pocketbooks of Hollywood oligarchs would be reduced in size.
Hollywood continues to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the screenings of its films in China. What’s more is that there is an increased demand for Chinese actors and actresses appearing in Hollywood films as this will likely increase demand in China for such features.
One of the most anticipated upcoming films is Disney’s live action version of Mulan which stars the Chinese actress Liu Yifei. Liu’s public support for law and order in Hong Kong has earned her rebuke from western supporters of the Hong Kong rioters. That being said, it is difficult to imagine American parents telling their children that they are forbidden from seeing one of the most anticipated Disney films of the decade because its star doesn’t support disorder in Hong Kong. Anyone who thinks otherwise fails to understand that in western countries films are not just seen as entertainment but frequently serve as virtual baby-sitters for parents who seek a 2 hour respite from their normal duties.
In China, Liu’s stance on Hong Kong will if anything make the film even more popular and that means more money for the Disney corporation. Longtime Hollywood star, the Hong Kong born Jackie Chan has also voiced his support for law and order in Hong Kong whilst speaking of his patriotism as a Chinese man. Whilst Chan is far older than Liu, it’s certainly only a matter of time before those in favour of the Hong Kong rioters also call for a boycott of Chan’s long list of film credits.
Just as parents will likely not prohibit their children from watching Liu star in Mulan over far away political matter whose origins lie in the 1840s, it is unlikely that fans of martial arts action films will stop watching much beloved Jackie Chan features.
The danger to Hollywood therefore is not from a US led anti-China boycott of films specifically aimed at winning an audience in China and America simultaneously. The real danger is that as China already limits its yearly quota of foreign films to 38, if the the US government began exerting pressure on China over the events in Hong Kong, Beijing could easily reduce the quota of Hollywood films permitted in mainland cinemas or otherwise ban Hollywood all together just as Pakistan has banned Bollywood.
If the Hollywood darling Hillary Clinton was in the White House it would be all but certain that Washington would be taking a more coherently pro-rioter stance in respect of Hong Kong. Because under Donald Trump this is not the case, Hollywood should thank the man they love to hate because he is preserving Hollywood’s present and long term market share in China.