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Why Spielberg doesn't care about annoying Beijing

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on February 14, 2008

Steven Spielberg has quit as artistic director for the opening night show at the Beijing Olympics. (More in this BW story.) This is a major PR blow to the Chinese. Typically U.S. companies tie themselves into knots to keep Beijing happy and preserve their access to the 1.3 billion consumers in China. You might think that China would be hugely important to Hollywood, for all the obvious reasons: Over one billion people, rising economy, lots of middle-class moviegoers, etc.

But while Beijing has considerable leverage over most American industries, Hollywood is fairly immune. That’s partially Beijing’s own fault. Because China has a highly restrictive policy that only allows 30 foreign films a year into Chinese cinemas, the box-office numbers for Hollywood pictures in China are just tiny. Even tinier when you consider that the 30-number limit isn’t just for Hollywood pictures, it’s for Japanese, Korean and all other foreign movies (with the exception of Hong Kong films, which get special treatment). And of course there’s so much piracy in China, the country is Public Enemy No. 1 for the Motion Picture Association.

Some companies have tried, with little success, to court the Chinese. Disney, Sony and a few others have made some co-productions there in the past few years. But nobody has managed to overcome the intense Chinese resistance to opening up to Hollywood. Time Warner, which had taken the lead in opening cinemas in China, retreated a few years ago. With Darfur activists loudly calling for him to take a stand against genocide, Spielberg - the man behind the Shoah Foundation, which focuses not only on the Holocaust but Rwanda and other genocides - had little to lose and much to gain by dumping the Chinese.

Reader Comments


February 14, 2008 9:57 PM

Seems like a fair enough analysis of the situation. I wonder how the China trolls/apologists are gonna spin this one.


February 14, 2008 11:12 PM

I don't think that the Chinese will consider this as an act of being dumped. 'Dumped' is when you desperately need the other party. In Spielberg case, he is actually very redundant; China itself have many world class directors. Spielberg's role is mainly 'decorative'.

The Chinese chose to honor Spielberg when they don't really need him. Spielberg's act is actually looked on as an act of betrayal and backstabbing by Asians. He has done something Chinese consider as very dishonorable.


February 14, 2008 11:48 PM

First of all, your writing is lacking precision as usual.

Spielberg was not a director, he was only one of the consultant. Zhang Yimou is the director.

It was not Chinese who asked the help from Spielberg. It was him who expressed his willing for help in the games as explained by Chinese government. China accepted his request.

The people from all other countries went to China not for Spielberg. They are for the games-year history. China does not want to stage Spielberg's show too. I guess some people will feel happier since they will see more pure Chinese arts and culture this time.


February 15, 2008 1:31 PM

Where were these hollyhood so-called activists when US INDISCRININATELY carpet bombed Vietnam? Where were they when 650,000 innocent Iraqis died of the DIRECT cause of US war? Did US textbook even mention where the once 400-million strong native Indians? The US government took only few hundreds Iraqi refugees while Syria and Jordan allowed in millions of Iraqi refugees, even Netherland admitted several tens of thousand of them. Who caused the refugees in Iraq? Did anyone ever hear about the story of man-made human diasters in Iraq?

For China, Darfur has nothing to do with China. If these people cry so loudly and are so concerned about them. How about China sending troop and stationing in Sudan? Then these people will cry for Chinese colonizing these people. What do they want? They just want to humiliate China for every chance at their hand.


February 15, 2008 3:47 PM

Steven, your post is clearly biased, incorrect and most of all uneducated.

1. Spielberg did not initialize this, Chinese goverment contacted him FIRST. That is the fact.

The Chinese may naturally try to downplay that now and try to put a different spin on it, but they can't change what actually happened.

Which is why he waited never signed the contract he was offered. And why he wrote those letters.

2. This is olympics. "Pure Chinese arts and culture" is an insult to the international spirit of the Olympics. Spielberg is a visionary. That's the main reason why he got hired. Zhang Yimou himself has expressed his admiration for his talent.

Besides, all cultures were and are influenced by other cultures. That's a good thing so please don't be a biggot.

3. Why can you talk about "pure" chinese arts and culture when China's very own goverment is doing everything in it's power to supress any kind of artistic and creatuive endaviour that is not in line with it's own views and goals.

Banning movies that contain a supernatural element is only the latest in a long line of things that they've done.

3. And lastly and much more importantly, let's not forget that Spielberg DID THE RIGHT thing here and rightfully got praise for it from multiple sources. The only people who complained about it are they ones who are embarrased by what he did.

He did everything right.


February 15, 2008 4:11 PM

China has truely become a capitalistic country since money is only game. If you guys want PRC care for human right and equality, you better embrace a true far left-wing communist China which has slogan of liberating whole human race to equality with tanks and nuke at your door.


February 15, 2008 4:38 PM

LOL. China doen NOT CARE about SS. The US dosen't get that.

Diggy Zazz

February 15, 2008 5:03 PM

Please. Spielberg has created a movie called. 'Kung Fu Panda'. This movie will open in theaters nationwide on June 6, but is being promoted already. The animated feature is steeped in Chinese culture, and guess what the mascot of the 2008 Beijing games is? A panda! Spielberg's work is done. He has created a cutesy, animated 90 minute commercial for the Olympics. This little maneuver is nothing compared to that.

tom nguyen

February 15, 2008 6:12 PM

Of course , some western culture do influence the rest of the world. But Chinese people think that this is other typically English view about how inportance is. Chinese although do needs friends but not really think about this one. Why? because Chinese do think the most English speak nations do things double standard especially toward China.


February 15, 2008 6:58 PM

What Spielberg has done will seen as an insult to all Asians. The writer of the article and the activists do not see this. OK they can wear their halo, but for world harmony it is a step backwards. The average Chinese or even Asian cannot see the relationship between China and Sudan. China is not in the practise of telling other countries what to do. So to the average Asian they can only see the the insult not the political activism. Spielberg should have kept on trying his soft approach. Maybe persuade a Chinese official to go to Sudan with him.


February 15, 2008 7:31 PM

Th only people making this a big deal are Westerners who think of themselves overly important anyway. There are parts of the world that don't worship Hollywood. Of course Westerners would love everyone be like the Japanese and think just being white and American is enough to be called a celebrity. I call that embarassing. When you can buy a T-shirt in the states that says "I'm big in Japan" you know you're a lost people. That nothing to celebrate as a human being.

Will Spielberg now stop filmimg in countries that abuse human rights now. Because he has history of doing so.


February 15, 2008 8:49 PM

I am a Chinese. I don't really care about this. Spielberg quit? so?


February 15, 2008 8:53 PM

Why Spielberg doesn't care about annoying Beijing?

Because Beijing doesn't care about him. He think he is too important that every one has to care about him, but his letter and requests were ignored by Beijing because they do not need him at all. He is completely unnecessary for the Olympic show. Beijing gave it to him as an honor, he turned around and put a knife on the back of those Chinese who try to honor him. What an idiot.


February 16, 2008 12:28 AM

S has nothing to lose for now. But Hollywood may pay the price in the future. Right now there are many angry shouting circling Chinese websites that it is reasonable for Chinese people to watching pirated Hollywood movies. The Hollywood just deserve it.


February 16, 2008 12:41 AM

The olympics will continue with or without Steve.


February 16, 2008 12:59 AM


Please do not feel bad offending these Chinese readers. You actually did a great job exposing Chinese government's abuse of human right and environmental crisis. Among all western journalists, you are more straight, fair and objective. Someone got to do it. However, we do miss your fashionable blogs comparing Chinese with Indians.


February 16, 2008 2:13 AM

China has a lot of artistic talents to design and stage the opening and closing shows. As I understand, Spilberg's leaving is really a good riddance for the chinese director Zhang.

Also I want to point out one more point:China is such big country, they couldn't care less about the Hollywood movie, please don't flatter yourself, as always, most american reporters are sick with ignorance and arrogance.


February 16, 2008 7:28 AM

While Spielberg is quitting Chinese Olympic preparation, why he did not criticise how Isreal treated Arabians? Is it a bigest trouble for the whole world for many years. Durfur's problem is limited in a small country, and Chinese government can do nothing on it.

I am thinking whether we need to boycott Spielberg's movie in the future.


February 16, 2008 8:34 AM

There is nohing that has changed very much in the recent past that would justify Spielberg’s decision. Has he not known what has been happening in Africa?

Just another example of Hollywood ‘Grandstanding’.

The one lesson for all future Olympic Games organisers to take away from this is that they should avoid all Hollywood types like the plague. Let them stay in LA and play their little games.

The countries that stage the games will all have more than enough local talent to stage the games without any help from Hollywood Hacks.


February 16, 2008 9:24 AM

something peddlers of lies should read.


February 16, 2008 3:48 PM

Steven, your post is clearly biased and above all, wrong

1. Spielberg did not initiate this, Chinese goverment contacted him FIRST. That is the fact.

The Chinese may naturally try to downplay that now and try to put a different spin on it, but they can't change what actually happened.

Which is why he waited never signed the contract he was offered. And why he wrote those letters.

2. This is olympics. "Pure Chinese arts and culture" is an insult to the international spirit of the Olympics. Spielberg is a visionary. That's the main reason why he got hired. Zhang Yimou himself has expressed his admiration for his talent.

Besides, all cultures were and are influenced by other cultures. That's a good thing so please don't be a biggot.

3. Why can you talk about "pure" chinese arts and culture when China's very own goverment is doing everything in it's power to supress any kind of artistic and creatuive endaviour that is not in line with it's own views and goals.

Banning movies that contain a supernatural element is only the latest in a long line of things that they've done.

3. And lastly and much more importantly, let's not forget that Spielberg DID THE RIGHT thing here and rightfully got praise for it from multiple sources. The only people who complained about it are they ones who are embarrased by what he did.

He did everything right.


February 16, 2008 11:49 PM

Spielberg did the right thing at the wrong time. He should have done this much earlier. Chinese government has supressed the Tibetans for a very long time and its about time the world wakes up to that fact.


February 17, 2008 8:05 PM

Mr.Spielberg (and Bruce Einhorn, the author of this article) may have no clues or be purposely ignorant about the background of what is happening in Sudan. It was Bruce Einhorn (again) who looked forward to eventual popular uprising against the Chinese Government following the most unusual winter storm in Southern China recently.

Sudan is not the same as Germany during WWII. To talk about the mass killing in Darfur, you must also understand the historical background of Chad and Central African Republic that are adjacent to Sudan too. Africa is highly tribal and millions of tribal people crisscross that region. Inter-tribal warfares have happened in that region for a long time. Coups in those countries happen on almost a regular basis. I have read about that region and found that it is more complicated than to simply liken the Darfur crisis to the Nazi. In fact, it is Bruce Einhorn's homework to exercise good journalism by doing some research before carrying out his writing to the public.

Generalization does not help Bruce Einhorn at all and I wonder why a leading business magazine like BusinessWeek continues to let Bruce Einhorn insert his prejudice in his articles.

cowboy from TX

February 17, 2008 9:29 PM

Pretty risk free for Mr. Spielberg to annoy the Chinese as they are already blamed for deadly pet food, green house gases, trade deficits and unemployment here. In comparison, Dixie Chicks's criticism of their own President is far more courageous, and they actually pay a dear price!

chi tran

February 17, 2008 9:55 PM

articles by this bruce einhorn are usually very biased and racist against china. typical of your average white american, he has a superiority complex when dealing with non-whites. the only kinds of articles that appeals to whites are articles that are china-bashing.

why should china care about hollywood when hollywood is clearly anti-asian men. honestly, can you name any hollywood movie that has halfway decent portrayals of asian men? NONE. hollywood movies dealing with asian men are usually stereotypical roles where the asian men are they as geeks, kung fu fools, wise old men with chinese proverbs, or sneaky businessmen. and whereas, the asian women are often portrayed as hoookers who are paired up with white men only.

i boycotted spielburg and hollywood a long time ago and i have many asian american friends who have also


February 17, 2008 11:14 PM

The hidden agenda behind all this crap is purely political and strategic play by the western hawks to continue to hit nations that refuse to suck up to their double-standard "values". If all those so-called activists and Hollywood people are that concerned, why don't they ask US and it's cronies to drop their soldiers and war tools into Sudan like what they did to Iraq, Afganistan and many other countries in the past? They can 'police' in Africa for all they like and leave the games to China.

Spielberg and Mia and of course Bruce E are just hypocrites.


February 18, 2008 12:41 AM

Prescott warns critics of China

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has rounded on China's critics, saying relations cannot be allowed to sour over the Darfur issue.


February 18, 2008 1:01 AM

Hollywood hypocrites have called for boycotting the Beijing Olympics to punish China for "not doing enough" to pressure the Sudanese government into submitting. But at least the Sudanese government is a third party country independent of China.

Using the same standard of these self-righteous activists, isn’t it far more persuasive to call for THE WHOLE WORLD TO BOYCOTT HOLLYWOOD for not applying enough pressure on the US government, which has fabricated excuses to invade Iraq that led to the deaths to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, TO END ITS ILLEGAL OCCUPATION of that country and to end HUMAN RIGHT ABUSES AT GUANTANAMO BAY?


February 18, 2008 1:39 AM


It's strange your 2 same posts could pass the BW censorship.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman clearly told the reporters that it was Spielberg who told Chinese gov that he could do something for Beijing Olympics. Then Chinese gov did that. So many western reporters got the message, did any one say anything wrong with that?

Olympic games are hold in different places. Each time, It is a good chance for host countries to show their own things to the world. Are you interested to go Beijing to see Spielberg thing? What a stupid idea!. Of course Spielberg has his talent. But he can do nothing to help China in Olympic games.

China is the country who has peace keepers in Sudan under the name of UN. Where are Americans? Sudan government also welcomes African Union to send troops there to deal with the problem. Why westerners are not welcomed? No westerners think about it.

Westerners had robbed africans for centuries. That place is still full of chaos and proverty. Today, they suddenly talk about human righgts. Don't fool this world. There are so many conflicts in Africa, Did westerners care too much? If China does not have economical ties with Sudan, the Darfur issue can have such an attention from western world?

China has been helping Africa improve infrastructure and send exports to teach them how to farm. With the help from China, Sudan now is the third largest economy in Africa. That's the biggest human rights achievement. Can you deny this?

If Spielberg really care about human rights, do something with the genocide in Iraq first. Those people are being hurt by your own country.


February 18, 2008 2:15 AM

Chinese don't care about Steven Spilberg. With all the coverage in Western press, I have seen only one single Chinese report on him since he resigned. Westerners like Eihorn really have to accept the fact that their influence is far less important than they imagined. That's why only a tiny fraction of Chinese, and Japanese and Koreans for that matter, speak English. You do have to learn Chinese if you want to survive in China. So good luck Spilberg and Einhorn.


February 18, 2008 4:28 AM


I found that you always write some one-sided views on Red-China. Do you intentionally to do this in order to cause dispute and increase tension between Chinese people and the rest of the world? Is this your job as a correspondent? or maybe the reason is simple, you just want to be a figure in China although it is disgusting


February 18, 2008 9:01 AM

According to Asia Times, Civil war in Sudan started after Sudanese Government increased their shares of oil revenue and western Big oils quited. Rumor has it the so-called rebel was financed by CIA from CHAD.
According to BBC, the so-called rebel are consisted of hundreds of arm groups some as small as 20 peoples. They have different agenda. The African peace keepers was so poorly equiped and they could not even defended themselves. Where are the help from Western countries calling for the end of the war. The latest peace talk in Europe failed because the so-called rebel groups cannot get together. It takes one person to start a killing. In order to stop it requires a lot more participants. The rest of Sudan is doing well accoring to BBC, except Dafur because of lawlessness. Sudanese government has said it many times before, rebel has done just as much killing of refugees.
Result of the so called activtist campagn, MIA can feel better about herself and the group got a lot of donation. Most of the them, no doubt, comes from big oil and CIA. They want to punish China for not following their rules, quitting Sudan all together. American meia is too happy to report the one sided story.


February 18, 2008 10:17 AM

Human rights activists will say that China blocked the news of Steven Spielberg's departure because it controls the media. But the truth China really didn't have to block it because no one really minded. To the vast majority of Chinese, this Olympics is not about politics. It is about the pride of the Country. Chinese people have struggled for recognition and respect for over half of century since the Communist party took over. A lot of mistakes were made along the way. Now finally many Chinese see this is a event that they can really be proud of and showcase the progress Chinese have made. They think this is the time to celebrate for a change.

If they hear about Steven Spielberg's decision to quit, most of them will just shrug it off or even feel disgusted. After all, this is a pure political move. The fact that he agreed to participate initially then pulled out does not speak well for his intention. It will be viewed as an action to purely humiliate China in public and no country takes humiliation very well.

The thing western media always seems to forget is that every country can have a cause to celebrate and for its people to be proud. When you muddle politics with the cause for celebration, it always leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Imagine how you would feel if China publicly protest U.S. over its civil rights and human rights when U.S. just landed a human on the moon.

When people want to celebrate over something that is good, should we really try to take that away?


February 18, 2008 4:03 PM

I noticed in many similar stories, most Communist China supporters view most first world countries like United States, England, and Japan as evil empires. It is like when the news reporter interviews the parents of a mass murder, the parents always say, “He was a good son. He was quiet. He was a lovely man. He was friendly to stranger.”

Each side has its own point of view. The murderer was always the good son. The Western countries are the evil empires.

P.S.: In one comment, I do not understand the logic why the Chinese have the right to bootleg and illegal download foreign intellectual properties because foreigners deserved it. What is the logical behind this statement?


February 18, 2008 5:30 PM

You are so naive. CHinse government will retaliate Spilberg by banning his new movies. Don't believe? well. you will see. If Mr.Spilberg has new movie, it will not have any chance to show in China. At that time, he will realize the price he has to pay. so do other movie stars


February 18, 2008 6:03 PM

Let's see Spielberg start complaining about the Iraq war at home, or the countless criminal acts the US has engaged in toppling democratic goverments and adding US friendly tyrants.

Spielberg's a coward and a hypocrite.


February 18, 2008 6:24 PM

These days, the so-called activists (everyone knows who supported them) have really gone to the extremes in defaming China.
1. Was Sudan a former Chinese colony?
2. Why Sudan would listen to Chinese government?

Can you come up with a better excuse next time when you want attack China?

The facts are:
1. "Dafur genocide" was only concocted by US media. US is the only country that insists there was a genocide.
2. UN has already sent a fact-finding deligates to Sudan and concluded that there was really a humanitarian crisis, but no genocide.
3. The root of the conflict was really a flight for water and land resources


February 18, 2008 10:19 PM

I am Chinese myself but am appalled by the efforts of some to spread and propagate their biased views which have been no doubt shaped/informed by certain media outlets. If you're going to insist strongly on your views take the time to conduct some objective research on all sides and matters. Use your brain. Quit thinking with your Red Heart.


February 19, 2008 9:25 AM

I think some people over estimated Chinese government's infulence over Sudan government. Those people should influence their own governments instead of a foreign country's if they really want to do something about Sudan.

Again, Olympics is a purely sport activity, thoes Holloywood craps think they have some influence over the others, not even mention nobody know them in China.

Bruce said that it partly becuase China's own fault ... blah, blah. Well, I think it's actually good for Chinese to save money


February 19, 2008 9:40 AM

With the active support and direct military intervention of the United States, Kosovo is now declaring independence from Serbia. The fragile peace in the Balkans has been broken and we shall see a lot more killing and bloodshed. The United States will be held accountable in the eyes of the world, just like it is responsible for over half century of unrest in the Middle East by forcibly injecting the state of Israel into the region. I hope the world will boycott the next international event held in the US for its war crimes.


February 23, 2008 4:50 PM

Interfering in the cultures of others, and trying to force them to model their culture in the ways of your own, is called imperialism.

Spielberg wants us Chinese to commit imperialist actions on another country, just because he doesn't like how the people in that country choose to live.

For someone so intent on reminding everyone about the Holocaust, he certainly has selective amnesia. We Chinese have done a lot for the Jewish diaspora, especially during the Holocaust. It is also a fact that the Kaifang Jews were the only Jewish community in a foreign land that were accepted without prejudice.

Mr. Spielberg is an ingrate, and an imperialist lackey as well.

Big Tiger

February 24, 2008 1:11 PM

A big mistake SS has made here is that he thinks the Olympic is Chinese government's business, instead of Chinese people's business. While most common Chinese people are trying hard to use this opportunity to show the world their good will, their hospitality and their new achievements, SS just slams them in the face.

It's wrong to assume that Chinese people are always standing on the opposite side of the government, and are in desperate need of foreigners' help.

Give you an example: The approval rate of Bush Administration is low. However, if a Chinese director speaks in public, wishing Space Shuttle Atlantis to fall apart in the sky in order to "punish the Bush Adm.", I don't think this director should assume he will gain popularity among those who don't like Bush.

BTY, Bush is a strong supporter of Beijing Olympics. Whether he can maintain his popularity in the US, he will be remembered as a friend in the next few decades in China.


May 24, 2008 2:26 PM

to proman:

china did not, do not and will not invade any country. how the western countries torn apart, colonize, divide china during the opium war? how your ancestors justify drugs as "good" things to massively sell to a country?

what's wrong if beijing olympics showing some of chinese's cultural values?

spielberg has insulted us, chinese, and you westerners just wont think us, asians as normal people, shame on you.

from now on i will not support and spielberg related movies, unless he show chinese some respect!


August 9, 2008 9:20 AM

Guys what's the deal here! just because we dont like the olympics doesnt mean we hate the chinese i have some chinese friends! I just think there annoying and they take over nbc to much!


August 10, 2008 4:37 AM

Spielberg is either kicking himself or crying his eyes to have missed such as great opportunity to organized the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony!!

I am glad that Steven Spielberg did not participate or else he would have taken all the credit. Right now, the opening ceremony was 100% Chinese and not Hollywood primadona that would take credit for little to not work done!!
Spielberg EAT your heart out !!

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