Chinese billionaire and tycoon Wang Jianlin has a piece of advice for US president-elect Donald Trump in relation to his US-China policy.
“I just met with the chairman of Motion Picture Association of America and he was going to meet Trump and asked if I wanted to pass any message along. I told him to convey this: ‘I have invested $10 billion in the US and employed over 20,000 staff. Tread carefully or else these many jobs may be at risk. Trump has to understand that the growth of Hollywood movies are dependent on the Chinese market’,” Wang was quoted as saying in a company statement released after attending a summit in Beijing on December 10.
And Wang appears to have chosen a messenger who should know his way to Capitol Hill. The Motion Picture Association chairman is Christopher Dodd, who’s best known for having represented Connecticut in the Senate from 1981 to 2011, and for having co-authored the Dodd-Frank banking regulations.
Wang made his remarks during a question-and-answer session after the Dalian Wanda Group chairman delivered a speech to an annual meeting of China entrepreneurs in Beijing. Wang however said it’s still too early to say how Trump would view Chinese companies’ investment in the US and if there would be any policy shift.
Could Trump’s Tough Talk Mean Trouble for Wang and Wanda?
Back in the US, the new president-elect seems to be signalling major changes in US policy towards China. Speaking on Fox News just one day after Wang’s remarks, Donald Trump called into question the “one-China policy which has underpinned US relations with the mainland and Taiwan since the late 1970s. The one-China policy recognises that Taiwan is part of China.
“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump said in response to a question on his taking a phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen – a move that broke decades of US diplomatic tradition.
Trump indicated that Washington should reconsider its one-China policy if Beijing does not make concessions on trade and other issues such as the South China Sea and sanctions on North Korea.
Wang and Wanda have already come under fire from US politicians following an aggressive acquisition spree that has made the former PLA officer the biggest owner of theatres in the US, and seen his company buy up significant real estate projects in Chicago and Los Angeles.
In late November incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer singled out Dalian Wanda Group’s acquisitions of US entertainment companies and other assets as a potential threat. The Democratic senator from New York asked administration officials to examine deals by Wanda and other companies to determine whether they are being orchestrated by the Chinese government.
Now the world’s largest theatre owner, Wanda acquired U.S.-based AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012 as well as spending $743 million to buyout Australia-based theatre chain The Hoyts Group and another $1.2 billion to acquire Europe’s largest theater chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group this year.
Wang Vows to Create a Rival to US Soft Power
Seemingly undismayed by pushback from the US, at the same summit Wang predicted that Wanda could create a cultural brand that would rival American soft power.
“There is Hollywood in the US, Bollywood in India. It takes persistence and good foundations to build up such cultural brands that are internationally known,” Wang said. “But I am convinced to tell you this: if there is anyone in the world able to create the first Chinese cultural brand, it will only be Wanda.”
The Chinese tycoon said the company is on the right path by earlier acquiring international distribution channels, before aggressively embarking on content production.
“This mission may take five, eight or even 10 years. There’s no one telling me to do so. We feel that only Wanda could do it, and creating a Chinese cultural brand is our responsibility,” he said.
Wang was hopeful of the prospects of the Chinese movie industry in 2017, predicting overall ticket receipts to grow by double digits. The Chinese film market is expected to overtake the U.S. and become the world’s largest by next year, according to analysts.