Chinese Film Executive Calls U.S. Lawmakers' Concern About Hollywood Investments "A Joke"

The China Issue Splash 2016

Huayi Bros. president Wang Zhonglei says, "I don’t think there’s a desire to control American movies," while others have refused to comment on the issue or Donald Trump's threats of trade sanctions.

The only political concerns among film executives interested in Hollywood-China dealmaking remain questions about China’s annual foreign-film quota and its requirements for receiving official co-production status.

What they’re not worried about are American Congressional suspicions that increasing Chinese investment in Hollywood is a way for the country's Communist Party to affect the world’s most influential film industry.

In September, 16 U.S. representatives penned a joint letter noting their concerns that recent deals, such as Wanda Group’s acquisitions of AMC Entertainment and Legendary, were in the service of "China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media."

"I’ve seen those reports, but they’re a joke," said Huayi Bros. president Wang Zhonglei, speaking to THR’s Scott Roxborough at the U.S.-China Film & TV Industry Expo at L.A. Live last week. "America has surely experienced this before: About 20 years ago, the Japanese came over to invest in their industries in order to grow their market — not for government reasons. China is the same way. I don’t think there’s a desire to control American movies.”

But unlike with Japanese companies, no deal involving a Chinese company can take place without the express authorization of the Chinese government. When an expo attendee pressed Wang on Washington, D.C.’s concerns over a Chinese agenda at the state level, the exec’s response drew laughs. “I didn’t realize Washington also made movies,” he snarked. “It’s true that the government approves or encourages industries to go abroad, but there’s no way there’s an agenda."

Wang’s comments were downright forthcoming compared to some of his fellow expo speakers when it came to opining on possible U.S. countermeasures on doing business with China.

When this reporter questioned a panel of top execs from both countries, including Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei and Lionsgate co-COO Brian Goldsmith, about how Sino-Hollywood pacts might be affected by Donald Trump’s promises to levy trade sanctions against China, only one person spoke up.

"That candidate’s not going to win," said producer and Phoenix Pictures chairman and CEO Mike Medavoy, just before the panel’s moderator, China Film Co-Production Corp. general manager Miao Xiaotian, hastily drew the session to a close.