The process wasn’t exactly seamless. In 2007, the WTO ruled that China was violating international trade rules because it was restricting imports of movies from the United States. But by 2012, the two countries had resolved their differences and reached an agreement that established a new quota, or allowance, of thirty-four foreign films per year and set concrete guidelines for coproduction.
Today, movie coproduction allows U.S. and Chinese production companies to jointly create films that would count as non-foreign in China, making more room for Hollywood films under the quota. U.S. production companies are allowed to participate in coproduction as long as the film uses Chinese production facilities and staff, and casts Chinese actors for at least one-third of its main roles—and passes China’s censorship guidelines.
What Gets Banned in China?
China has no direct equivalent to the Motion Picture Association of America or movie ratings system; instead, a media administration directly under the control of the State Council (one of China’s three branches of government) examines and censors content, necessitating at times distribution of different versions of the same films. The Chinese version of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, for example, eliminated half the screen time of a Chinese pirate character whose depiction was deemed racist. And Chinese censors cut thirteen minutes of Men in Black 3, including a scene in which alien villains disguised themselves as restaurant workers in New York’s Chinatown, claiming such content portrayed China in a negative light.