A highlight from Episode 261: Feeding the Dragon The Movies, the CCP and You
Me start with the beginning. How did you get into this business. Where'd you go to school. And what led you to do. I'm humbled and honored to be on your show. I'm a big fan of it and it's amazing to follow such amazing guests that you had on recently. So thank you for that and in regards to my back story. It's one of the things that i've tried to pull the reader into the book with because it's not like it was premeditated idea of getting involved in the commercial and cultural exchange between the us and china just sort of happened a lot like how life occurs. I was born and raised in south florida. My father was an engineer with pratt. And whitney aircraft in got transferred to connecticut when i was just entering high school so i went to high school in glastonbury connecticut and then i went to cornell university and ethic in new york got a bs in engineering there and when i graduated was nine hundred ninety three the economy was not all that good and i read a couple books that inspired me to travel the back roads of the country over the course of about nine months and eventually stop through los angeles for a weekend. Visit a friend who is living out here and never left and that started my journey into the entertainment business. In ultimately it introduced me to a small chinese company based in beijing and that led to the crazy twenty years that i had in the interaction between the two superpowers twenty printing. How much of. That was spent working in china. So i was the conduit to all the global business for the company primarily the hollywood business so i was based in los angeles that whole time but i made dozens of trips back and forth between the two countries. Initially our headquarters was in shanghai with the lead up to the two thousand eight olympics. We moved our headquarters to beijing and we ultimately had five cities of operation in china. So i was there quite often. Spent a lotta time on planes. Since you've been both new york and los angeles and you've been in shanghai and beijing. What are the biggest differences in the rhythm and culture of the chinese media. Business as opposed to the american media business. Well one of the interesting aspects of china was that every global company wanted to into that market. They knew how big it was going to be. But no one actually really wanted to live in china in the early days so they would try to run operations out of say taiwan which was really difficult her out of japan or possibly out of hong kong and then eventually they started to move into shanghai because shanghai was a very cosmopolitan very international and feel it had british influence. Obviously and it was a pretty nice place to live because it had freedoms that were relatively similar to one of democracy plus it was a city that had lots of western aspects mixed with chinese ultimately though all the decisions are made in beijing. So if you look at shanghai sort of a new york city. Beijing is obviously their version of washington. Dc and everything involves. What happens in beijing. All the decisions are made in fact. I use a comparison of china's just as wide as the united states of america. Right but in the united states of america. There's three time zones in china. There's only one. And the only time that matters in all of china no matter if you're in the eastern west is whatever time it is in beijing. That's the time that all chinese citizens live by this continuous homogenization into a beijing. Centric model is really remarkable. I think one of the most remarkable things about the modern chinese seen you were there you were in the business meetings you saw decision making and as you know in the last couple of years. It's people become a little more skeptical and in some cases even a little more hostile. And i think it's partly been by watching the way. The chinese dictatorship has dealt with the various american companies including one of my favorite stories. Which is the decision that in the new version of top gun first of all. I don't quite know why somebody would have put a taiwan patch on a fighter pilot jacket but beijing apparently intervene very aggressively and said if you want this shown in china. That's gotta come off the jacket. Can you describe that decision process. It's a fascinating one in obviously senator. Ted cruz brought that to light roughly. I think it was january. Twenty twenty and it's obviously been one of the big sort of examples of this encroachment of chinese censorship on hollywood. It's a fascinating situation when you look at what the chinese communist party's number. One goal is which is to keep one point four billion people just happy enough that they don't revolt and the reason i say just happy enough is because there's just simply not enough resources on earth to make them all happy so one of the things they need to do is provide this idea that their leadership is giving all of what they need in some of what they want to their people and then on top of a given this aspirational idea that they can get more if they work hard when you look at what. Taiwan represents that is something that they have instilled inside their people as an area of the world that they still control and own and rightfully should have back so any time any other messaging comes out that deflects from that ideal and says hey. Taiwan is its own separate country. Its own nation. That is a real problem for the chinese communist party. And when they look at the way they prioritize what they do on the messaging front number one is they need to stay internal with their people and spread the message that they are the best form of government in the world but number two is on the world stage they take a very serious directive in making sure that they promote this great form of government in their is around the world and part of that is done through the soft power of hollywood and that is what we're seeing with this cross-border censorship that has been occurring since nineteen ninety seven. And we can talk about some of those movies that really woke us up to it but he's been slowly getting more and more aggressive over time and it's something we need to push back on now. Johnson is almost a throwback to the maoist years of public self apology. I was wrong. I did everything wrong. You know please forgive me. I think it's impressive that he apologizes in mandarin. Which i assume made the chinese government very happy. I think partly they want kowtowing to reflect their self defined position. Yeah we'll one hundred percent. I mean number one. Is i feel for john cena because actually behind me i have a poster called blockers which is a movie i produced with john. He's a very talented individual. He's actually a huge supporter of veterans e. United states of america actually comes from the athletic background of world wrestling entertainment so he has fans all across the board and he got pulled into a real political hot button issue and one of the things that china does is they essentially through whatever source of communications will make it clear to the people that are trying to monetize a product or service that something needs to be rectified. That was seen as an error in the eyes of the chinese communist party. And in this case it was a movie called fast and furious nine the ninth installment of fast and furious movie where. John was out promoting that film and he obviously referred to taiwan as its own nation.