Chinese President Xi Jinping has been a busy leader since taking office recently. Trips to Russia and Africa are just the beginning of his new PR-savvy attempts to change with the current climate. It’s also interesting to see that whilst Jinping is embracing this more modern drive, India was in the news with its leaders directly reaching out to voters via social media platforms, taking questions on Twitter and with live YouTube feeds. Clearly the Arab Spring has taught these gentlemen something: “if you can’t beat ‘em, work with ‘em.”
So it is with this idea that a seemingly innocuous piece appeared on the BBC website recently, trumpeting the fact that China is now the second biggest movie market in the world, displacing Japan. The reason for this shift is simply that the authorities have relaxed restrictions on the number of foreign films allowed to be screened, and the amount of revenue foreigners are able to collect from the distribution. This may seem like noting special, and of course the movies allowed into the country won’t get past the censors, so nothing subversive. But if America has done one thing well, it has indoctrinated the minds of generations through the Hollywood machine – selling consumer desire, male-female archetypes, fairy tale lifestyle packages et al. It could be said that Hollywood informs the political landscape much more than policymakers ever could or will. So, watch out China, America will into your bloodstream somehow, and this is the way.
Of course the films being screened in Beijing will be harmless for the authorities (for now), but the point is – the door is open. Putin made the mistake of encouraging early Internet use in Russia, and then proceeded to clamp down hard when it came back to haunt him. China, like Iran, or Saudi Arabia, doesn’t have a choice – modernisation will come to your shores one way or another. North Korea, too, can’t hold out forever; the challenge lies in how Xi Jinping can evolve and adapt to his country’s desire for progression – repression can’t last.