DONGYANG: Chinese film and television are reeling from what industry insiders call a “bitterly cold winter” of sharper government scrutiny that is expected to lead to more Communist Party-friendly content.
The entertainment sector had blossomed in recent years, with official encouragement by a government keen to replace foreign content with homegrown fare and develop the industry as a global “soft power” asset.
But a nationwide push for more party-approved material across media, music and entertainment has combined with a clampdown on spiralling screen-star salaries to cloud the outlook.
“(It’s been a) cold winter, a bitterly cold winter,” said Yu Zheng, screenwriter and producer of the hugely popular series “Story of Yanxi Palace”.
The period drama set amid Qing dynasty court intrigue drew 18 billion views on Chinese platform iQIYI and was the most “Googled” TV show in the world last year, due in part to popularity among the Chinese diaspora.
The programme, since concluded, was filmed at Hengdian World Studios in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
Widely considered “China’s Hollywood”, the sprawling studio complex has around a dozen film sets including faux versions of Beijing’s Forbidden City and, soon, Shanghai’s Bund riverfront.
Around 70 percent of China’s film and television shows are shot there, Chinese newspaper Economic Observer reported in 2017.
But studio chairman Sang Xiaoqing told AFP in an interview that Hengdian is bracing for a slowdown, particularly after tax authorities late last year targeted A-list actress Fan Bingbing in a crackdown on alleged widespread tax dodging and exorbitant pay for big-name stars.
“Judging from the current situation, (the entertainment industry) will be in the process of slow recovery in 2019,” Sang said.
“Some crew have postponed their shooting plans and some have even cancelled. The business operations of film and television companies were also impacted by the strengthened tax reform.”
Sang said he expects to see a shift to more films or TV programmes focused on the revolution that brought the Communists to power in 1949, particularly as this October will mark the event’s 70th anniversary.
Krypt Chen, a Shanghai-based media analyst, said: “(Government) scrutiny has been stricter year after year since 2016. It was already quite harsh last year and may be even stricter this year.”
China’s film industry earned a record of nearly 61 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) in box-office revenue last year, up nine percent from 2017, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, though growth slowed from the previous year.
Radio and TV revenue, meanwhile, rose 20 percent in 2017.
But the tightened scrutiny has Chinese studios feeling the heat.
Entertainment giant Huayi Brothers Media Corporation’s share price was almost halved last year, and Hengdian stock shed more than 20 percent.
President Xi Jinping is waging a campaign to sanitise media content, which has resulted in a crackdown on art forms like rap, while even tattoos are believed to have been banned from television.
Historical shows like “Yanxi Palace” had seemed safe as they don’t deal with contentious contemporary issues.
But a commentary by Beijing Daily, an official Communist Party newspaper, last month touched off a debate by criticising period dramas for glamorising lavish imperial lifestyles and palace intrigue instead of promoting “the core values of socialism”.
Since then, similar shows appear to have gone into hiatus.
“Yanxi” producer Yu said he felt his show was in line with Xi’s goals of promoting and exporting Chinese culture.
“I think criticism is ok. But please don’t cut (all period dramas) across the board,” he told AFP in a phone interview.
“China finally has a TV show that has been recognised by the world… Why can’t we bring out China’s good, luxurious things and let foreigners pay their respects?”
Hengdian chairman Sang said optimistically the newspaper commentary could result in content with more “positive energy”, while Chen, the analyst, said this will mean more traditional values.
Sang said demand remains high and he expects to see a shift toward better-developed plots, finely tuned production quality, and less reliance on big-name stars.
“There was excessive, bubble-like, investment,” Sang said. “Now, as people become rational and have calmed down, many good companies will have the opportunity to distance themselves from competitors.”
Countering Indian hybrid warfare techniques
KARACHI: Security analysts Friday warned people to be wary of the content on social media, as the Indian hybrid war against Pakistan was trying to cause discontent and confusion among the masses.
Addressing a seminar “Post Pulwama-Threat of Hybrid Warfare and What Next,” organized by Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) speakers including former Ambassador Najmuddin A. Shaikh, former Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asif Mahmood, Dr. Huma Baqai, Associate Dean at IBA and senior defence analyst Ikram Sehgal were unanimous in their opinion that India has been seen piling up and imposing instruments of hybrid warfare on Pakistan. The situation demanded that the nation must be cautious in expressing their views on social media that may not only counter the national cause but also lead to manipulation of a national perspective.
Mentioning that hybrid warfare is a blend of conventional and irregular warfighting techniques that may also employ other non-kinetic means to undermine an enemy’s strength, speakers said Pulwama incident was a manifestation of their very technique. Modi Government was said to have taken advantage of it by blaming Pakistan for the terrorist act hence not only attempting to gain world sympathy but also affecting issues involving the two neighbors and taking up the issue at international level.
Hybrid Warfare, the elaborated was more catastrophic in essence as it pervades into multifaceted frontiers of the enemy’s territory; psychologically undermining its decision-making capabilities. I also have ability to systematically crippling its financial and information networks using cyber technology, economic strangulation via coercive economic diplomacy and leveraging its influence over international actors and institutions meanwhile, developing and maintaining a robust defense posture.
It was emphasized that Pakistan needed to get around the world and show the Indian intelligence agency’s vile face and its role in getting innocent human beings, getting killed in and outside India. Mumbai carnage, attack on Indian Parliament, attack on Pathankot Brigade Headquarters were cited to have been already proven as False Flag Operations conducted by RAW and other covert agencies of India to promote and protect their interests.
The speakers were firm in their suggestion that Pakistan must continue its support, morally and politically so that Kashmiris were essentially allowed to exercise their right to a plebiscite as narrated in UNSC Resolutions. On the occasion 12 of the UN Security Council resolutions starting in April 1948 were extensively discussed explaining as how much important it was to get Kashmir issue resolved in a democratic manner through a free and impartial plebiscite.
China issues heart-shaped commemorative coins
BEIJING: Two heart-shaped commemorative coins, one gold, and one silver have been issued by China’s central bank.
Chinese characters Jixiang, meaning auspiciousness, dominates the obverse of the two coins, while the reverse sides are decorated with traditional patterns such as a dragon, phoenix, lotus, jade and pearls, all symbols of auspiciousness and fortune.
Weighing three grams and 30 grams respectively, the gold and silver coins have a face value of 50 yuan (about 7.46 U.S. dollars) and 10 yuan separately.
Apart from the pair, the new set of commemorative coins featuring China’s auspicious culture also includes five round coins.
One silver coin, with a face value of 20 yuan and decorated with the patterns of pomegranates and chubby kids, symbolizes a big and prosperous family.
Another pair bearing the patterns of a cat, a butterfly, stones and auspicious flowers indicates longevity, while the other pair decorated with the images of magpies and plum flowers, symbolizes a joyful life.
The maximum circulation of the coins range from 5,000 to 20,000, and the set is available for sale since Thursday, according to a central bank statement.
Trump to be first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will be the first foreign state guests to visit Japan and meet with Crown Prince Naruhito after his elevation to the emperor
Trump will travel to Japan from May 25 to 28 “as the country’s first state guests following the enthronement of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito on May 1, 2019,” Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. Trump will also hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in addition to a visit by Abe to Washington on April 26-27, Sanders said.
“The meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe will reaffirm the United States-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world,” Sanders said. Trump is expected to return to Japan in June for the G20 summit being held in Osaka.