Sen. Ted Cruz wants to cut off Defense Department cooperation for Hollywood productions that allow Chinese authorities to censor their films.
The Texas Republican announced a bill on Tuesday that would bar the Pentagon from working with productions unless they commit not to alter their content to accommodate Chinese censors.
Cruz was among those who vociferously objected last year when a trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” showed that the Taiwanese and Japanese flags had been removed from Tom Cruise’s flight jacket. Many critics noted that the companies behind the film — including Paramount, Skydance and China’s Tencent Pictures — were preemptively seeking to appease Chinese censors.
The film — originally set for release in June, but pushed to December due to the pandemic — got extensive cooperation from the U.S. Navy.
Cruz’s bill would also forbid the Defense Department from working with U.S.-China co-productions, where the Chinese partner is subject to Chinese censorship standards.
In a statement, the senator warned that China is using its economic power to buy up media companies and to coerce U.S. companies to censor themselves.
“The Chinese Communist Party spends billions and billions of dollars to mislead Americans about China and shape what our citizens see, hear and think,” he said. “All of these activities are part of China’s whole-of-state approach to amass more influence around the world through information warfare — and we need to put a stop to it.”
The Motion Picture Association declined to comment.
Last July, Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon that the “Top Gun: Maverick” episode was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.
“Top Gun is an American classic, and it’s incredibly disappointing to see Hollywood elites appease the Chinese Communist Party,” he said at the time. “The Party uses China’s economy to silence dissent against its brutal repression and to erode the sovereignty of American allies like Taiwan. Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech and is enabling the Party’s campaign against Taiwan.”
The military branches each have entertainment liaisons that review scripts for accuracy and help provide access to equipment, personnel, and military installations.
The Cruz bill would condition such assistance on a written agreement “not to alter the content of the film in response to, or in anticipation of, a request by an official of the Government of the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Communist Party.”
The bill also allows the secretary of defense to withhold cooperation from any company deemed to have submitted to Chinese censorship in the recent past.
China took steps last year to ratchet up its censorship of films and TV. Films that have military or political themes are subject to particular scrutiny.