THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: CHINA GOES TO THE MOVIES

THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: CHINA GOES TO THE MOVIES

Sometimes your Signal authors look to beat the July heat in an air-conditioned movie house. Then, bored with the latest summer blockbuster, it isn’t long before we’re scanning the screen for signs of political trends. Today, we check out three big stories from China’s summer movie season.


First, Hollywood has long wanted a bigger slice of China’s movie market, already the world’s second largest. US producers want more American films allowed into China and a bigger cut of the box office. But like every other aspect of the current US-China trade relationship, things aren’t moving forward. Why are American movies especially vulnerable to the growing trade war? They’re one of the very few products China imports from the US at much higher values than the US imports from China. Tough luck for Tinsel Town.

Second, we learned this week that high-budget Chinese films can do “box office belly flops” worthy of the worst of their US counterparts. A fantasy epic based on Tibetan mythology called “Asura,” with a more than $100 million price tag, reportedly the most expensive movie ever produced by China’s film industry, opened on July 13 (pictured above). It offered big-name stars and stunning visual effects, but the film’s opening weekend brought in just $7 million, and the film quickly disappeared from theaters without explanation. It appears China’s movie-going middle class is looking for something that hits a little closer to home. Looks like they’ve found it...

Third, on July 5, a much lower budget film opened in China to greater success. “Dying to Survive” is a black comedy about a man who sells oils he claims can cure erectile dysfunction. Faced with the suffering of a desperate leukemia patient, he organizes a motley crew of smugglers to help obtain a life-saving drug at affordable cost from India. This comedy about high drug prices won a standing ovation and raves at last month’s Shanghai Film Festival, and it now looks bound for box office glory.

The bottom line: China’s fast-growing film industry is beginning to reflect the pressures facing the country and its people.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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