Several weeks ago, before the massive onslaught of election-living hell, I was starting to think about my next post. As often happens, it started with an unexpected news report concerning the purchase of an entertainment empire. I did some minor research. As more and more information unfolded, a newspaper ( in this case the WSJ) wrote what I consider a naïve column. Then all stopped – the reporting stopped and I stopped and became an obsessed watcher as the election a terrified roller-coaster ride (I hate them). I was no longer able to breath until November 8.
You know the Greek tale of the Trojan horse and its creator, the Greek hero Odysseus. He built a large, hollow wooden horse, shoved a bunch of armed Greek soldiers inside and ran it up to the Trojan gates and left it as a gift. The Trojans opened the gates, rolled in the horse and went to sleep, awaking the next morning to the Greeks at their breakfast table and promptly surrendered. Much like a real Trojan horse, in a 1936 radio address, a Spanish nationalist commander during the siege of Madrid announced that he had a “fifth column” (that Trojan horse again) — a group of his soldiers hidden within the city’s population ready to attack and aid his four columns of armed soldiers outside the city and about to attack .
Today, China has slipped a powerful Trojan horse into your neighborhood, and you don’t know it and it is growing. Let me explain:
If you are as old as I, or not too far behind, you will remember or at least you might have been told about “Dick Clark “and his “American Bandstand” television program in the late 50’s. Dick Clark, with his white buck shoes and perennial boyish charm, held sway for one of the longest running television programs on what was then a very small television tube. Unknown to most of us, he not only fronted this program but with a lot of imagination, foresight and backing built an enormous entertainment production empire. That empire, Dick Clark Production, produced or owned dozens upon dozens of televisions programs and scores of musical copyrights and, became the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised events. Long after his death, his production company remained in your home and life until one day, recently, his production company was in negotiations to be sold to Dalian Wanda. Dalian Wanda you ask? This blog of Terrorism and Security you wonder?
And here is the saga of a Chinese Trojan horse in your neighborhood – a foreign country’s Trojan horse, not friendly and aggressively anti-U.S., who will control an immense portion of your life without a shot fired and with no overt sign informing you of its invasion or takeover. The magnitude of its invasion and growth is beyond the point of merely being interesting to observe and can now be said to be of important security interest.
Dalian Wanda is a Chinese conglomerate corporation and, as such, is the world’s largest private property owner and developer, and the world’s largest movie chain owner and operator. They are also heavily engage and invested in sports, luxury hotels and department stores. At the head of Dalian Wanda is its billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin. He not only holds the title as Chairman of the Board of Wanda but stands at the important political juncture of China’s economy, its political ruling class and its non-democratic government. Admittedly, he is a key advisor to the ruling communist party. It is claimed that foreign prime ministers send him notes, and Hollywood’s stars run when he summons them. However much may be true or not, what is true is that his power is monumental, and thru that power he and his corporation have been able to amass an overwhelming portion of the United States’ entertainment interests that hold our daily attention and pocketbooks. A short list:
- The Dalian Wanda Group has bought a stake
- in a Hollywood film studio (Legendary Entertainment) valued over $3.5 bn. They are the producers of Jurassic World, Dark Knight Batman trilogy and Godzilla.
- The Wanda Group has purchased AMC Theatres (formerly the Loews’ Theatres), who in turn purchased the Carmike Cinema who in turn purchased Robert Redford’s Sundance Cinemas.
- It owns or has a major interest in Magic Johnson Theatres, Starplex Cinemas, General Cinema Corp, Odeon Cinemas, and the list goes on.
- Viacom, the media company that owns cable networks and movie production businesses, is in talks to sell a 49% stake in its film studio, Paramount Pictures, to China’s Dalian Wanda Group.
A quick look at this empire and you can easily see that Wanda is the largest motion picture theatre owner in the United States. Its aggressive move into production will enable it to control and direct not only the content of films being produced in this Country but its local distribution throughout the United States. When I go to the movies on Broadway and 68th Street, the AMC movie complex, it will be the Chinese Government through Wanda who decides what films will be shown in that theatre. And I mean the Chinese Government not merely the Wanda company owner.
The Communist Party ties to Wanda and Mr. Wang were the subject of a New York Times investigation in April 2015. The report found that relatives or business associates of four members of the party’s ruling Politburo, including relatives of President Xi Jinping, were among the company’s earliest outside investors. All appear to have earned spectacular returns, as they tie the company to the government. The Justice Department has been asked to look into these investments. So when the Wall Street Journal writes that “Chinese investment in the U.S. movies isn’t a security threat “–and that we shouldn’t “send the wrong message about U.S. openness”, its conclusion is worse than naïve, it is dangerous. It should be noted, and if my research is correct–it has been more than a decade since a Hollywood studio made a major movie critical of China’s authoritarian and oppressive government. Obviously, from this point on, there is certainty that it will not.
But, the story and destruction of competition does not end there: In September 2013, a group of Hollywood elite attended (summoned?) the launching ceremony of Wanda’s 900 acre Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. In attendance –in China—was the head of the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the top four entertainment talent agencies and a bunch of A-listed American movie stars. The Wanda Group announced that the studio complex will be completed 8 months from the writing of this blog and will have more than 20 studios , one of them will be the world’s largest and another will be a fixed underwater facility. In addition to an Imax research laboratory (Wanda already owns the Imax theatres in the US), it will have a theatre that can accommodate as many as 3,000 people.
Obviously, the Communist Party, thru Wanda’s purchases, is the government’s move to expand its global influence to ensure several scenarios: First that any portrayal of China in a Hollywood production ( for local or world-wide distribution) will meet the criteria set in Beijing not Hollywood. And second, to control that favorable portrayal of China by directing the place and time movies are shown to the American public. Third, the ability, by the shear financial force of its ultra-modern studio complex and seemingly unlimited funding, to reposition the making of motion pictures from a Hollywood studio to China.
What all this boils down to is quite simple: It would be naïve to believe that an attack on one’s security arrives only in the form of a bullet, bomb or kidnapping or even the crashing of an airplane into a skyscraper. Propaganda, the deliberate dissemination of information or ideas in all its forms, is a powerful weapon that has deadly and lasting influence. There is “advertising” so you purchase one soap powder over another, you vote for one candidate, and there is ISIS and its propaganda on the other end of the pendulum. They have all employed the lessons of propaganda – to direct your pocket book, your mind and your conduct to only their advantage.
The motion picture—“going to the movies”– has always been thought of as entertainment, but history has shown that Hollywood has for good and bad utilized it as a powerful weapon of propaganda. Now, though, when you go to the movies you can thank China for your choices on the big screen!