Oct 9, 2019

American speech puts spotlight on Chinese censorship

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In less than 48 hours, three American companies in the business of mass entertainment have found themselves at the center of a political storm about China's aggressive censorship.

Why it matters: Media and entertainment have long acted as extensions of free speech with a mass reach, making them both vehicles for public expressions of controversial views and targets of government censorship.

Driving the news: Most visibly in the press, the National Basketball Association is currently facing the wrath of the Chinese government after a team's general manager expressed support for Hong Kong protesters and the league has refused to denounce him. But there's more:

It's no surprise that Hollywood is treading carefully around the Chinese government given its large market's importance to Hollywood.

  • Upsetting the Chinese government can impact U.S. film exports. China has blocked or delayed films in the past. Most recently, it delayed the release of "Crazy Rich Asians," which cut into revenues for Warner Bros. 

In contrast: American companies have a history of bending to China's requests in the name of preserving their access to its market — but these usually related to censorship for Chinese customers, or other less visible requests.

The big picture: This is all happening against the backdrop of an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

What's next: Some are calling for U.S. regulators to reconsider TikTok parent company Bytedance's acquisition of Musical.ly, the American short-video app it acquired in 2017 from growing fears it will censor American users in accordance with its political speech preferences.

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

George Floyd protests: What you need to know

Police block protesters at a rally on May 30 outside the state house on the fourth straight day of demonstrations against the death of George Floyd. Photo: Megan Jelinger/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black men spread across the U.S. Saturday, amid tense standoffs with police in several cities.

The big picture: Floyd's fatal run-in with police is the latest reminder of the disparities between black and white communities in the U.S. and comes as African Americans grapple with higher death rates from the coronavirus and higher unemployment from trying to stem its spread.

U.S. cities crack down on protests against police brutality

Photo: Megan Jelinger/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

Trump to invite Russia and other non-member G7 countries to summit

President Trump at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday. Photo: Saul Martinez/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Saturday evening he would postpone the G7 summit to September and expand the meeting to more nations that are not members of the Group of 7.

Details: Trump said he would invite Russia, South Korea, Australia and India to the summit, according to a pool report. "I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries," he said.