U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr slammed Hollywood and Big Tech companies for pandering to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in a press conference at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on Thursday.
“If American corporations continue to bow to Beijing, they risk undermining both their own future competitiveness and prosperity, as well as the classical liberal order that has allowed them to thrive,” Barr warned. “American companies must understand the stakes. The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report.”
Barr lambasted Hollywood for “kowtowing” to the CCP’s regime in pursuit of economic profits. He cited reports that in the movie “World War Z,” Paramount Pictures changed a scene that suggested the virus at the center of the film may have originated from China, in an attempt to receive a distribution deal in China. He also referenced the Marvel movie “Dr. Strange,” in which a character’s nationality was switched from Tibetan to Celtic because acknowledging the existence of Tibet might anger the Chinese government.
“Chinese government censors don’t need to say a word, because Hollywood is doing their work for them,” he said. “This is a massive propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party.”
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Barr also noted the quotas and pressures to enter joint ventures that the CCP has placed on Hollywood, in an attempt to learn from American technology and to increase China’s own film industry. “In the long run, as with other American industries, the People’s Republic of China may be less interested in cooperating with Hollywood than co-opting Hollywood—and eventually replacing it with its own homegrown productions,” Barr said.
He criticized the CEO of Disney for apologizing about a 1997 film that showed “the PRC’s oppression of the Dalai Lama” because it angered the CCP, and noted that 300 employees at Disney’s Shanghai theme park are members of the Communist Party.
Barr also slammed American tech companies for their cooperation with the Chinese government. “American companies such as Cisco helped the Communist Party build the Great Firewall of China—the world’s most sophisticated system for Internet surveillance and censorship,” he said. “Corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP.”
Apple, Barr noted, has removed “pro-democracy songs” from its music store for Chinese audiences, and recently took down a news app from Chinese markets because the CCP disapproved of its Hong Kong coverage. The tech giant is also beginning a move to store some of its iCloud data in China “despite concerns that the move would give the CCP easier access to e-mails, text messages, and other user information stored in the cloud.”
The CCP, Barr added, has been actively reaching out to the heads of American companies and leveraging the company’s business interests in China to pressure them to lobby for the CCP’s interests to the U.S. government.
The Chinese government “also seeks to infiltrate, censor, or co-opt American academic and research institutions,” Barr continued, citing CCP-funded “Confucius Institutes” at American universities. These Confucius Institutes “have been accused of pressuring host universities to silence discussion or cancel events on topics considered controversial by Beijing.”
In addition to warning against acquiescence to China by Hollywood, Big Tech, and academia, Barr warned of the CCP’s attempt to dominate markets for artificial intelligence, rare earth materials, trade routes, and digital infrastructure. The American response to the CCP’s ambitions, he predicted, “may prove to be the most important issue for our nation and the world in the 21st century.”
“How the United States responds to this challenge will have historic implications, and will determine whether the U.S. and its liberal democratic allies will continue to shape their own destiny, or whether the CCP and its autocratic tributaries will control the future,” Barr said. “I hope my speech will encourage the American people to reevaluate their relationship with China, so long as it continues to be ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Barr had a specific warning for American business leaders. “Appeasing the PRC may bring short-term rewards, but in the end, the PRC’s goal is to replace you,” he said. “A world marching to the beat of Communist China’s drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade, or the free exchange of ideas.”
He ended his speech with a call to action for Americans to resist the ploys of the Chinese government.
“The CCP has launched an orchestrated campaign, across all of its many tentacles in Chinese government and society, to exploit the openness of our institutions in order to destroy them. To secure a world of freedom and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, the free world will need its own version of the whole-of-society approach, in which the public and private sectors maintain their essential separation but work together collaboratively to resist domination and to win the contest for the commanding heights of the global economy. America has done that before. If we rekindle our love and devotion for our country and each other, I am confident that we—the American people, American government, and American business together—can do it again. Our freedom depends on it. “
Barr is far from the first administration official to condemn China’s relationship with American businesses, and Hollywood specifically. In an interview with The Federalist’s Ben Domenech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Hollywood’s pandering to the CCP.
“The hypocrisy that exists in Hollywood that was subject to [demands from China] is breathtaking,” Pompeo said. “If the United States demanded that they did something in the movie or didn’t do something in the movie it would not only be rejected but it would be inappropriate. And yet when the Chinese Communist Party has hollered at them, they have jumped.”
Pompeo noted that Hollywood’s cooperation with the Chinese government is directly tied to financial greed. “There was money to be made,” he said. “I hope they’ll take seriously, that it may not be worth a little bit more money…to put at risk all the things that I know they valued so much, of the freedom that people in Hollywood have benefited from.”
Read Barr’s full speech here, or watch: