The recent acquisitions of AMC Theatres and Legendary Entertainment by China’s Wanda Group and Alibaba’s partnership with Steven Spielberg have become landmark events for Chinese companies’ expansion in American cultural industries. The developments have alarmed some American congressmen, who are worried of China using this opportunity to conduct political propaganda and ideological penetration in America. Why would a normal cultural exchange be so quickly politicized?
America is a country long used to liberalism and cultural contamination. The American way of thinking has become its own system and is strongly promoted everywhere in the world. It is in fact a tradition of American diplomacy, however, that America is always trying to reduce or change different ideologies and cultures. From curbing the Soviet Union’s Communism to changing the Islamic world, America has always been uncompromising toward countries with different ideologies and cultures. For a long time, the target countries for American influence have received a one-way economic and cultural influx. It has always been the American acquisition of other countries’ cultural entities; how could it be that other countries are now buying American properties? America is not used to it, nor does it feel comfortable about the change.
The China-U.S. relationship is at a delicate stage right now. Due to endless wars, a weak domestic economy and deep political rifts, American strength and overseas influence have been decreasing gradually. With Chinese diplomacy making headway everywhere in the world, the American elite, who are obsessed with the idea of “America is Number One,” feel jealous and want to skew the interpretation of all Chinese moves abroad. This has led to a shift toward the hard line when it comes to discussions of American policies regarding China. What is worrisome: Normal China-U.S. cultural events and economic exchanges are often politicized or seen in a national security context, and all similar moves by China are seen as having unhealthy strategic goals. This kind of extreme sensitivity only reflects America’s lack of confidence and fragile mentality.
America has caused its own quandary, but this theory is not politically correct in America. Many politicians are purposefully looking for a scapegoat for America’s mess, so China is seen as the instigator of American problems and as America’s challenger. This kind of assumption has caused America to create obstacles in normal cultural and economic exchanges between the two countries.
Interaction between cultural industries is a crucial part of the two countries’ cultural and economic exchanges and is a must for increasing the understanding between the two countries. If the exchange had to be conducted smoothly, and to really ease each other’s doubts, then both sides would have to reduce the politicizing of such activities; let what is cultural stay cultural, let affairs of the economy stay part of economy and make sure politics stay far away.
Some American politicians are always trying to distort China’s image and make the American public see some nonexistent ulterior motive, which will lead to a lack of public support for China-U.S. collaborations and hurt long-term benefits for the China and the U.S. Cultural and economic exchanges should not have to stop because of such politicians’ distortion and agitation of China. Concrete development of related industries would help the American public objectively understand Chinese culture and the mutually beneficial economic relationship between the China and the U.S.
The author is a professor at China Foreign Affairs University.