Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While the U.S. reckons with the fact that China's market power can stymie free speech after the NBA's firestorm, Hollywood — America's premier cultural exporter —  has long willingly bent to Chinese censorship to rake in profits.

Why it matters: China is set to become the world's biggest movie market in 2020, and with its 1.4 billion citizens, it won't relinquish that title anytime soon. That means it's key for Hollywood studios to do all they can to ensure that their tentpoles can pass the standards of the country's strict censors.

The big picture: The country's rampant censorship makes things difficult for foreign films. Beyond unsurprising restrictions on graphic nudity, sex and violence, China's censors can balk at anything from men wearing earrings to ghosts.

Perhaps the most extreme example was the 2018 decision to not allow Disney's "Christopher Robin" to be released, purportedly because Chinese President Xi Jinping's resemblance to Winnie the Pooh had become a joke among activists who resisted the country's Communist regime.

  • Censors also blocked the release of 2013's "World War Z," amplifying the film's relative financial disappointment for its studio, Paramount. Theories for its ban range from a reference to the film's zombie outbreak starting in China to a Chinese shadow ban on its leading man, Brad Pitt, for starring in "Seven Years in Tibet" in 1997.
  • 2012's "Red Dawn" saw its entire original plot, which featured China invading America to reclaim its debt, rewritten after filming to feature North Korea as its enemy instead — and still couldn't get a Chinese release.

Many American films do get released, but only with copious cuts to please the censors. While these usually involve slicing scenes of violence or sex, they often involve more politically-minded edits.

The bottom line: Despite the handwringing over China's economic ability to suppress Americans' freedom of speech, Hollywood film studios have willingly ceded their artistry to China's censors for years — on issues big and small — in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Go deeper: China's vise grip on corporate America

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
15 mins ago - Economy & Business

Americans' trust in the Fed keeps falling

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.3% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' trust in the Federal Reserve fell again in October, with just 34% saying they have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the central bank in the latest Axios/Ipsos poll.

What's happening: While trust in the Fed rises with age, income level and among those who say they know more about the institution, there was not a single group where even half of respondents said they trusted the Fed.

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Politics: Trump calls Fauci a "disaster" on campaign call.
  2. Health: Coronavirus hospitalizations are on the rise — 8 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week.
  3. States: California to independently review FDA-approved coronavirus vaccinesWisconsin judge reimposes capacity limit on indoor venues.
  4. Media: Trump attacks CNN as "dumb b---ards" for continuing to cover pandemic.
  5. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown as cases surge — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 5 million infections

USA Today breaks tradition by endorsing Joe Biden

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

USA Today, one of the largest newspapers by circulation in America, gave Joe Biden its first-ever presidential endorsement on Tuesday.

The big picture: A slew of media companies are endorsing a candidate this year for the first time ever, citing the unprecedented nature of this election.