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China and Hollywood by the Numbers

China and Hollywood by the Numbers

Consider this: Hollywood studios now make more money selling movie tickets in China than in any other market outside North America. Wanda, China’s largest real estate developer, bought AMC, the second-largest movie theater chain in the United States, and is also investing in making movies of its own. China is building theaters and adding movie screens at a rate not seen in the U.S. in decades, and Chinese audiences are ballooning.

DreamWorks Animation, which made the global blockbuster Kungfu Panda, is now making parts of the third of six planned installments, as well as other films, at its new joint-venture studio in Shanghai.

What does all this mean for Hollywood? A lot. Viewed through one lens, China is Hollywood’s savior: a new frontier, a place to mint fans and money. Viewed through another, it’s Hollywood’s nightmare: a country hostile to free expression where the state tries hard to maintain control of culture and wants to reap its own profits from its legions of filmgoers by keeping Hollywood on the outside looking in.

China, meanwhile, envies Hollywood as much for its cultural empire as for its financial clout.

The two sides need each other, want each other, and yet—despite last year’s landmark film deal a decade in the making—neither side is ready to completely embrace the other. Will the story end with carnage or with the two sides riding off into the sunset together? Too soon to say. In the meantime, here are some numbers to give you a sense of what’s at stake.

* * *

2.8

Billions of U.S.$ gross in movie tickets sold in China in 2012

10.8

Billions of U.S.$ gross in movie tickets sold in the U.S. in 2012

2.7

Billions of U.S.$ gross in movie tickets sold at China’s box office in first nine months of 2013

35

Percentage points rise in gross value of movie tickets sold in China in the first nine months of 2013, up from the same period in 2012

1.6

Billions of U.S.$ grossed by Chinese-language films at China’s box office from January 1 to September 30, 2013

58.2

Market share of Chinese-language films at the box office from January through September 2013

93.8

Percentage points rise in box office sales grossed by Chinese-language films over the first nine months of 2012

1.1

Billions of U.S.$ grossed by films imported into China from January 1 to September 30, 2013

41.9

Market share of imported films in the first nine months of 2013

5.2

Percentage points decline in box office gross sales of tickets to imported movies in the first nine months of 2013

1.39

Billions of RMB (182 million U.S.$) grossed by Avatar in China in 2009, making director James Cameron’s sci-fi film the all-time No. 1 movie in China (Source: Film Business Asia)

1.26

Billions of RMB (197 million U.S.$) grossed by Lost in Thailand in China in late 2012 and early 2013, making director Xu Zheng’s comedy the biggest Chinese-language hit of all time (Source: Box Office Mojo)

280

Millions U.S.$ spent to produce Avatar (Source: Los Angeles Times)

4.8

Millions U.S.$ spent to produce Lost in Thailand (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

750

Millions of U.S.$ grossed by Avatar in North America (Source: Box Office Mojo)

57

Thousands of U.S.$ Lost in Thailand grossed in the United States in February 2013 (Source: Box Office Mojo)

54

Millions of U.S.$ grossed by Hero in the United States in 2004—making director Zhang Yimou’s film the all-time No. 1 Chinese-language movie released in the U.S. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

77

Thousands of U.S.$ grossed by director Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin in the United States in autumn 2013 (Source: Box Office Mojo)

0

Sales of tickets for Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin in China, where the film has yet to gain censors’ approval for theatrical release

5

Number of years in a row (2007-2012) China’s box office gross jumped an annual compound rate of more than 47% (Source: Variety)

2

Number of films from mainland China nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (Source: AMPAS)

2

Number of films from Hong Kong nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (Source: AMPAS)

3

Number of films from Taiwan nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (Source: AMPAS)

1

Number of Chinese-language films to win the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, from Taiwan, by director Ang Lee in 2000 (Source: AMPAS)

2018

Year when China’s box office will surpass that of the U.S., predicts IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond (Source: Forbes)

2025

Year when China’s box office will double that of the U.S., Gelfond says (Source: Forbes)

39,662

Number of movie screens in the United States (Source: National Association of Theater Owners)

7,914

Number of Americans per movie screen in the United States

13,118

Number of movie screens in China

103,923

Number of Chinese per movie screen in China

5

Estimated U.S.$ billions of “value potential” (estimated box office gross plus possible ancillary revenue) in China by 2017 (Source: Variety)

34

Number of imported films China permits its theaters to screen each year, for which gross ticket sales are divided between the foreign copyright holder and the Chinese distributors

20

Number of imported revenue-sharing films allowed on China’s silver screens before the U.S.-China Film Deal signed February 2012

25

Percent of the box office take grossed by an imported film shown in China that can flow back to its copyright holder abroad

13

Rough percentage studios outside China got from their theatrical releases inside China before Spring 2012

10

Years it took for U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators to reach an agreement over terms of U.S.-China film deal in 2012

2.6

Billion U.S.$ spent by real estate giant Dalian Wanda to acquire AMC Entertainment Holdings, the No. 2 U.S. cinema chain

1

Rank of Wanda among world’s largest cinema chains

4

Number of partners in Oriental DreamWorks: one American (DreamWorks Animation) and three Chinese (China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group, and Shanghai Alliance Investment)

350

Millions of U.S.$ valuation of Oriental DreamWorks’ cash and intellectual capital assets (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

3

Billion U.S.$ Oriental DreamWorks has slated for a cultural and entertainment district in Shanghai

6

Number of installments of the Kung Fu Panda series

4

Number of installments of the Kung Fu Panda film franchise that Oriental DreamWorks plans to make in China

Except where noted, the data for this article comes from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT). It was compiled by Artisan Gateway and edited by Jonathan Landreth.

Topics: 
Jonathan Landreth reported freelance from Beijing from 2004 to 2012 for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The China Economic Quarterly, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science...

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China’s Viral, Nationalist Screed Against Western...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

“You are nothing without your motherland.” It’s a trite phrase, one that seems unlikely to stir the blood of even the most dyed-in-the-wool nationalist—but it has found recent currency in China. An essay with that title has been making the rounds on the Chinese Internet...

Media

12.04.13

Chinese Chortle at U.S. Request to Scrap Controversial...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

The United States wants China to pull back from its gambit to try to rewrite the East China Sea’s status quo, but the Chinese are having none of it. On December 2, the U.S. State Department said China’s newly-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ), a California-sized...

Media

11.27.13

China’s Favorite Villainess

TEA LEAF NATION

Many U.S. viewers identify with serial killer Morgan Dexter of Dexter, inveterate womanizer Don Draper of Mad Men, or family man turned meth kingpin Walter White of Breaking Bad—however morally bankrupt they may be. Now, China has its own anti-hero, one that citizens love—and...

Media

11.25.13

Former Committee to Protect Journalists Honoree Says...

EMILY BRILL

A prominent Hong Kong-based journalist has called on Daniel Doctoroff, Chief Executive Officer of Bloomberg L.P., to step down from his role as chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner on Tuesday in New York...

Media

11.25.13

Chinese Netizens Applaud Beijing’s Aggressive New...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Beijing has just thrown down the latest gauntlet in a long-simmering territorial dispute with Tokyo—and China’s citizens are cheering. On November 23, China’s Ministry of Defense released a map showing the “Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone,” a wide swath over the...

Media

11.22.13

Farewell, Everyman: Chinese React to Ambassador Locke...

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

Chinese are waving goodbye to the frustratingly normal U.S. Ambassador to Beijing, Gary Locke, who announced on November 20 that he will be leaving his post in early 2014. Over 300,000 netizens discussed Locke’s resignation on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like platform where...

Media

11.21.13

For Cash-Strapped Parents, Two Babies Are Too Many

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

Call it reproduction with Chinese capitalist characteristics. On November 15, authorities announced that the country’s One-Child Policy would be loosened, adding couples in which one spouse is an only child to the list of families allowed to have two children. Experts hope the...

Media

11.14.13

Westerners Aren’t the Only Ones Flummoxed by China’...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

After the Third Plenum, a high-level meeting to discuss China’s future, ended on November 12, Beijing released a major document likely to affect many of its 1.3 billion citizens’ lives for years. Western media responded to the 5,000-plus character document, called the Plenum...

Media

11.07.13

After Party Headquarters Explosions, Netizens Debate...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

On the morning of November 6, an unknown assailant or group of assailants reportedly detonated several bombs outside the front door of the provincial government headquarters of Taiyuan, the capital of Northern China’s Shanxi province. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency...

Media

11.07.13

Chinese State Media: U.S. Bullying ‘Obsolete’

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Stop being a bully, and start respecting the rule of the global village. That’s the takeaway from a November 1 editorial in Chinese state media, which castigates the United States in the wake of revelations that the NSA has tapped the phones of thirty-five foreign leaders, a...

Media

11.06.13

Sex Ed Videos Go Viral

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

A collection of sex education videos have just gone, ahem, viral on the Chinese Internet. On October 29, a three-person team calling itself the “Nutcracker Studio” released three one-minute clips addressing tough topics in childhood sex education, such as “Where Do Babies...

Media

11.01.13

Apologies for a Horrific Past

TEA LEAF NATION

On October 9, a farmer named Zhang Jinying appeared on the television show Please Forgive Me, a program usually dedicated to public apologies by unfaithful husbands and wayward sons. But the sixty-one-year-old Zhang’s apology had a depth and a historical weight rarely seen on...

Media

10.31.13

Tiananmen Attack Spotlights China’s Beleaguered...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

On October 28, a jeep plowed into a group of pedestrians and burst into flames on the avenue next to Tiananmen Square, the massive public square in Beijing that is the symbolic heart of the Chinese capital. According to Chinese state media reports, the crash killed three people...

Media

10.29.13

Why “2 Broke Girls” Is All the Rage in China

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

In China’s battle between cupcakes and Communists, the cupcakes appear to be winning. While Chinese President Xi Jinping promotes the “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation with mixed success, the U.S. sitcom 2 Broke Girls has drawn Chinese audiences by depicting a more...

Media

10.23.13

How to Say “Truthiness” in Chinese

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

“Official rumors” is more than just an oxymoron. The phrase—pronounced guanyao—has become a useful weapon in Chinese Internet users’ linguistic guerrilla warfare against government censorship. That battle has intensified during a government-led crackdown on “online...

Media

10.22.13

China’s Silly War on Starbucks Lattes

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

There are worse things in the world than an overpriced latte. That’s the message that thousands of Chinese web users are sending China Central Television (CCTV), a state-owned media behemoth that ran an October 20 segment accusing the Seattle-based company of overcharging...

Media

10.18.13

Cross-Culture Fail Watch: “Blacklist” Bungles One-...

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

Chinese Internet users have a message for the screenwriters of The Blacklist: You’ve got a lot to learn about our country.The third episode of The Blacklist, a new NBC television drama in which the FBI and a former fugitive team up to fight terrorism, features a villain named...

Media

10.11.13

How Social Media Complicates the Role of China’s...

TEA LEAF NATION

Xia Junfeng was once unknown, but his 2009 arrest for the murder of security officers—who, he alleged, had savagely beaten him—made him a symbolic figure in a national debate about human rights and reform in China. Yet many wonder whether this notoriety did more harm than...

Media

10.07.13

Just How Free Is Shanghai’s New Free Trade Zone?

TEA LEAF NATION

This article is adapted, with updates, from the September 20 article “China’s New Free Trade Zone: Silver Bullet or Stopgap Measure?“Two weeks after taking office in March 2013, China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced that Shanghai, the country’s financial capital, would...

Media

10.02.13

ChinaFile Presents: Jia Zhangke on “A Touch of Sin”

THE EDITORS

On September 30 at Asia Society in New York City, film director and screenwriter Jia Zhangke and his wife, muse, and frequent leading lady on screen, actress Zhao Tao, joined Asia Society’s Film Curator La Frances Hui and journalist Emily Parker to discuss his new film, A Touch...

Media

10.02.13

China’s Surprising Reaction to the U.S. Government...

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

As the U.S. federal government hurtles into shutdown mode, many in the United States have responded with anger or shame. At Foreign Policy, for instance, Gordon Adams compares the congressional bickering that gave rise to the shutdown to Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.Americans...

Media

09.30.13

China Watches “Breaking Bad”

TEA LEAF NATION

Why do millions of Chinese care about a fictitious New Mexico meth cook? The soon-to-be-concluded television drama series Breaking Bad, which depicts embattled high school chemistry teacher Walter White’s transformation into a crystal methamphetamine kingpin, has already become...

Media

09.26.13

Execution or Murder? Chinese Look for Justice in Street...

TEA LEAF NATION

This morning, a Chinese street vendor named Xia Junfeng was executed. Xia had been found guilty of murdering two urban enforcers, known colloquially as chengguan, in 2009. Xia’s lawyers argued he acted in self-defense, presenting six eyewitness accounts and statements from...

Media

09.25.13

The Silk Road of Pop

NICK HOLDSTOCK

Most coverage of Xinjiang focuses on the tensions between Han and Uighur in the region, especially since the 2009 Urumqi riots. The Silk Road of Pop, a new documentary about Uighur music directed by Sameer Farooq, is a timely portrait of the rich contemporary culture of China’s...

Media

09.18.13

For Chinese, Violence in the Middle East Sparks Debate...

TEA LEAF NATION

Recent months have been rocky for the Middle East: harsh crackdowns on protesters in Egypt and a Rashomon-like scenario in which the Syrian government and the rebels have accused each other of using chemical weapons, just to name a few. The region’s great distance from China...

Media

09.13.13

Chinese Professor Mocked for Suggesting Elderly...

TEA LEAF NATION

China’s age of retirement has long been a subject of controversy, as the country’s aging population and slowing economic growth have made caring for the elderly an increasingly daunting task. Recently, Yang Yansui, a professor at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University,...

Media

09.11.13

Amid Scandals, Can China’s New Organ Transplant...

TEA LEAF NATION

The now oft-derided Chinese Red Cross once again found itself in hot water in July, when it was reported that some branches have asked organ transplant hospitals to pay 100,000 RMB ($16,300) for each successful organ donation organized by them. In August, the People’s Daily...

Media

09.06.13

Follow the Money: Who Benefits from China’s One-Child...

TEA LEAF NATION

When debating China’s one-child policy, China’s domestic media and observers overseas mostly focus on its impact on the population structure or incidences of inhumanity involved in the implementation of the policy (such as forced abortion). Almost unmentioned is the fact that...

Media

09.04.13

China’s Crackdown on Social Media: Who Is in Danger?

TEA LEAF NATION

There is a Chinese proverb that says one must kill a chicken to scare the monkeys, which means to punish someone in order to make an example out of them. That is what many believe happened last Sunday when outspoken investor and Internet celebrity Charles Xue was detained by...

Media

08.27.13

The Surprise Loser of China’s Trial of the Century:...

RACHEL LU & TEA LEAF NATION

It seems like everybody has something to gain from Show Trial 2.0, a.k.a. the semi-live tweeting of fallen politician Bo Xilai’s day in court.Bo Xilai the showman takes a bow with a flourish; Gu Kailai, the scorned wife, exacts sweet revenge; Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears...

Media

08.27.13

China’s Original Social Media: Bathroom Graffiti

TEA LEAF NATION

The men’s room in the passenger station in Qujing, Yunnan province will be familiar to anyone who has answered the call of nature in one of China’s provincial bus stations. Dim fluorescent lights give a clinical blue pallor to the bleary-eyed, fidgety travelers waiting their...

Media

08.22.13

You Can’t Handle the Truth: Bo Xilai’s Courtroom...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

A show trial this is not. But is a twist ending in the major blockbuster “The Life of Bo Xilai” in the offing?The long-awaited trial of Bo Xilai, once a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party, took place Thursday morning, but instead of the promised live broadcast, the...

Media

08.14.13

Don’t Dream Big—Four Vignettes on Social Mobility...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

The New York Times recently ran an article that detailed the struggles of three young college women from low-income backgrounds, raising questions about whether education remains the “great equalizer” in America. How does the picture look in China, where education has been...

Media

08.08.13

Chinese State Media: Online Critics “Incite Political...

TEA LEAF NATION

While the Internet has become the site of almost constant political arguments in China, few articles have generated as much debate as a recent piece by blogger Wang Xiaoshi. On August 1, Xinhua News Agency, a state-run media outlet, posted Wang’s article, entitled “If China...

Media

07.29.13

On “Wealth and Power”

THE EDITORS

Authors Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, and John Delury, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Yonsei University in South Korea, joined Jonathan Spence, Professor of History at Yale University, in conversation at...

Media

07.17.13

A Minority in the Middle Kingdom: My Experience Being...

TEA LEAF NATION

In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder: “…there is no racism in China because there are no black people,” a Chinese woman was reported to have said. This became...

Media

07.15.13

A Rite of Passage to Nowhere

YING ZHU & FRANCES HISGEN

Tiny Times, a Chinese feature film set in contemporary Shanghai, made headline news on its opening day in late June by knocking the Hollywood blockbuster Man of Steel from its perch atop the domestic box-office and breaking the opening-day record for a Chinese-language 2D release...

Media

07.10.13

Old Photo of Tiananmen Square Has Netizens Asking “...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

A rare old color photo of Tiananmen Square was posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter, and it was commented on hundreds of times as Internet users mused about the past and present of China’s most recognizable landmark.Here are the three things that stand out in this photo:{...

Media

07.10.13

Australian PM’s Online Musings Have Chinese Wondering...

TEA LEAF NATION

On July 9, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd posted on a social media site about a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The twist? The message was written in Chinese on the immensely popular Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo. Rudd wrote:Yesterday I...

Media

07.02.13

American History, Through Chinese Eyes

TEA LEAF NATION

White male privilege, genocide against Native Americans, slavery and subsequent racial oppression, exploitation of immigrants and laborers, repression of women and homosexuals, and environmental destruction—teaching American cultural history through a post-modern lens is hardly...

Media

06.27.13

Jackie Chan—The Young Master Comes of Age

JAIME WOLF

Once in a while, if you’re lucky, and paying the right kind of attention, events align to give you a clear view of the future. In 1995, I was in Los Angeles staying with a friend who produced independent films and had the trade magazines Variety and The Hollywood Reporter...

Media

06.17.13

Do Quotas in China’s College Admissions System...

TEA LEAF NATION

Earlier this month, millions of Chinese students took the exam for which they had been preparing their entire lives—the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, known colloquially as the gaokao. For some, the process was more arduous than for others. Zhang Tu, a...

Media

06.12.13

In Box Office Hit, American Dream Is Still Alive—In a...

TEA LEAF NATION

Over the last two weeks, the movie American Dreams in China (中国合伙人) has been the number one box office hit in China, selling over 400 million tickets to date. The movie is a gritty and at times tongue-in-cheek comedy that tells the true story of three young men who met...

Media

06.11.13

Chinese Web Users React to U.S. National Security...

TEA LEAF NATION

The online reactions to the PRISM incident, in which the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been revealed to conduct a far-ranging surveillance program affecting many both in the U.S. and abroad, have been as fascinating as the event itself. And that’s not just true of...

Media

06.07.13

Can Animation Cure What Ails the Chinese Movie Industry...

TEA LEAF NATION

“Gold rush.” “1920s Hollywood.” “Faster than a speeding bullet.” These are a few ways that film professionals have described China’s booming movie industry. China’s film market, the second-largest in the world, grossed roughly U.S.$2.7 billion in 2012, a 37%...

Media

06.04.13

On Eve of Tiananmen Anniversary, China’s Prominent...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

“Don’t worry about forgetfulness—at least the Sina censors remember,” tweeted Jia Zhangke, a film director.Like 2013, 1989 was the year of the Snake on the Chinese calendar. It was also a year that Chinese authorities prefer not to remember. On the twenty-fourth...

Media

06.03.13

Online Outrage After Chinese City Proposes Fine on...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

Women giving birth out of wedlock in China have to contend with family pressure, social stigma, and financial hardship. Now, some of them may have to pay a hefty fine as well.Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million people in Central China, posted a draft regulation online...

Media

05.29.13

The Graffiti Seen ‘Round the World

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

It’s tourist season the world over: let the shenanigans begin. After a young Chinese tourist’s defacement of an ancient Egyptian temple was photographed and shared online, the harsh backlash has gone viral in China’s blogosphere. Tea Leaf Nation Founding Editor Rachel Lu...

Media

05.28.13

Trending on Weibo: #AIDSPatientsCanBeTeachers#

TEA LEAF NATION

In the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, carriers of the AIDS virus are now allowed to teach schoolchildren. The recently-announced change in regulations marks a step forward for AIDS activists, with the hashtag #AIDSPatientsCanBeTeachers# now trending on Sina Weibo, one of...

Media

05.22.13

On “Strange Stones,” a Discussion with Peter...

PETER HESSLER, MICHAEL MEYER & more

On May 21st at the Asia Society in New York City, Peter Hessler, author of the recently published Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, discussed his book and a decade of writing about China and elsewhere with author, Michael Meyer and Susan Jakes, Editor of ChinaFile....

Media

05.17.13

Chinese Anxiety—In Debate About Overwork, a Glimpse...

TEA LEAF NATION

Almost half of all Chinese report feeling “more anxiety” now than they did five years ago. What, exactly, is driving these concerns, or increasing reports of these concerns? Avid followers of China-related news might immediately think of censorship and other restrictions on...

Media

05.10.13

Unrest in Beijing Over Mysterious Death of Young Woman

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

A rare protest in Beijing involving hundreds of people was documented by photos posted on China’s social media (scroll down to see a sample photo). The cause of the protest was the death of a twenty-two-year-old migrant worker, who fell several stories from an apparels...

Media

05.09.13

Truth in Chinese Cinema?

JONATHAN LANDRETH

In 1997, as James Cameron’s Titanic sank box office records around the world—including in China—Sally Berger, assistant film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, worked to bring New York moviegoers a raft of Chinese movies they’d never heard of.The fourteen films in the...

Culture

05.09.13

“I Just Want to Write”

TEA LEAF NATION

Whether or not I deserved the Nobel Prize, I already received it, and now it’s time to get back to my writing desk and produce a good work. I hear that the 2013 list of Nobel Prize nominees has been finalized. I hope that once the new laureate is announced, no one will pay...

Media

05.07.13

Rat Meat Masquerading as Lamb—Yet Another Food Safety...

TEA LEAF NATION

Rat meat + gelatin + red food coloring + nitrates = lamb. Have you tried it yet?“This is what a ‘complete’ sheep looks like,” reads a caption under the photoshopped image of a sheep with Jerry, the mouse from Tom and Jerry, as its head. The image was posted by...

Media

05.01.13

The Wall Street Journal: Covering China Past and...

THE EDITORS

The Wall Street Journal was one of the first American publications to set up a bureau in Beijing. Since its establishment, scores of the Journal’s correspondents have traveled in and out of the country to cover China’s economic and political development. On April 30th, 2013,...

Media

05.01.13

The Long Battle Over “White Pollution”

TEA LEAF NATION

In the past weeks, Chinese citizens have learned that the styrofoam boxes from which they eat their lunches will soon be legal. On February 16, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s highest economic policy-making body, changed the Industrial...

Media

04.22.13

Social Media’s Role in Ya’an Earthquake Aftermath...

TEA LEAF NATION

China’s social media was in mourning yesterday as users turned their profile photos to grey in remembrance of the victims of the 7.0 earthquake that struck the Ya’an region in Sichuan province on Saturday. As of April 22, the death toll has risen to 192.The Ya’an earthquake...

Media

04.12.13

Leftist Hawks and Conspiracy Theorists: The People’s...

TEA LEAF NATION

Is Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, turning into a new war zone? Dai Xu, a colonel in the Chinese Air Force and military strategist, thinks so.“A month ago, a pseudo-Japanese devil [derogatory term for pro-Japan Chinese] at Shanghai’s Fudan University besieged me and Luo Yuan....

Media

04.02.13

China Concerto

JONATHAN LANDRETH

Before February 2012, when his name exploded onto the front pages of newspapers around the globe, most people outside of China had never heard of Bo Xilai, the now-fallen Communist Party Secretary of the megacity of Chongqing. But in the years leading up to the murder trial that...

Media

04.02.13

Singing a Note of Caution About New First Lady Peng...

TEA LEAF NATION

Xi Jinping, the newly appointed Chinese President, unfolded his presidency with a grand foreign tour to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa, and the Republic of the Congo. While this series of state visits unequivocally underscored China’s diplomatic emphasis on its neighboring...

Media

03.13.13

Chavez and Bo Xilai Gone: Death of a Political Model?

TEA LEAF NATION

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5, 2013 came in the same week as the “Two Sessions” began in China, when China’s national legislature meets in Beijing. It was also almost exactly a year since the spectacular political demise of Bo Xilai, the former party...

Media

03.12.13

Pig Carcasses in Shanghai River Spawn Dark Humor on...

TEA LEAF NATION

The Huangpu River usually appears in glamor shots of Shanghai, serving as scenic backdrop to the colonial splendor of the Bund or the modern marvel of the Pudong skyline. But of late, a more grim and distasteful association has emerged. As of March 12, almost 6,000 dead pigs have...

Media

03.11.13

Young Family’s Arrest Brings Tension Between Vendors...

TEA LEAF NATION

A one-and-a-half-year-old girl wraps her arms around her mother’s neck, crying. Her mother, handcuffed, cannot hug her back—she can only squat down beside the police car to match her daughter’s height. “I’m sorry, mommy can’t hold you…”On March 6, 2013, one...

Media

03.08.13

“Shanghai Calling” Translates Funny

JONATHAN LANDRETH

Director Daniel Hsia and producer Janet Yang were motivated to make Shanghai Calling, their first feature film together, by the shared feeling that no matter how much more important relations between the United States and China grew, they always seemed fraught with...

Media

03.01.13

No Closer to the Chinese Dream?

TIMOTHY GARTON ASH

2013 began dramatically in China with a standoff between journalists and state propaganda authorities over a drastically rewritten New Year’s editorial at the Southern Weekly newspaper.In the first week of the New Year, the editors of Southern Weekly, a weekly newspaper in...

Media

02.22.13

China’s State-Run Media Shares Powerful Map of “...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

It appears that Chinese environmental activism is going further mainstream. The Sina micro-blogging account of Global Times, a well-known Communist Party mouthpiece, has just shared news about the horrific proliferation of “cancer villages” in China. Earlier today...

Media

02.21.13

In Face of Mainland Censorship, Taiwanese Revisit...

TEA LEAF NATION

Within twenty-four hours of registration, Sina Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) deleted the microblog account of Frank Hsieh, former premier of Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Ironically, Hsieh’s last tweet before he lost the power to post...

Media

02.20.13

On China’s Twitter, Discussion of Hacking Attacks...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

As The New York Times reported yesterday evening, U.S.-based cybersecurity firm Mandiant has just released a deeply troubling report called “Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units.” The report alleges wide-spread hacking sponsored by the People’s Liberation Army,...

Media

02.16.13

NBA Star Debuts on Chinese Social Media, Fans Clamor: #...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Tea Leaf Nation editor David Wertime spoke on February 15 on Public Radio International’s The World about NBA star Kobe Bryant (@KobeBryant), who has recently opened an account on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. Listen to the full two-minute interview:Bryant has...

Media

02.13.13

Officer Draws Gun on Drunk Driver—To Overwhelming...

TEA LEAF NATION

A policeman draws his gun to stop a desperately escaping criminal. It may sound sensational, but this is technically what happened in the southern Chinese megalopolis of Guangzhou on January 31. As traffic policemen were manning a drunk driving checkpoint, a driver in a red...

Media

02.12.13

Joke About Gay Romance on Chinese New Year Gala Lights...

TEA LEAF NATION

Is “bromance” in the air? Not according to state-run China Central Television (CCTV).Thousands of fans yelled “Get together” in unison when piano prodigy Li Yundi made a guest appearance at Chinese-American pop sensation Leehom Wang’s New Year’s...

Media

02.11.13

Covering China: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

THE EDITORS

On February 5, 2013, ChinaFile celebrated its official launch by bringing together a panel of former and current New York Times correspondents, whose collective China experience spans the course of half a century, to discuss their coverage of China. ChinaFile’s publisher and...

Media

02.08.13

Lil Buck Goes to China

JONATHAN LANDRETH

In November 2011, The Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, headed by Orville Schell, hosted the inaugural U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture.Schell's son, Ole, a filmmaker, tagged along with his video camera and captured the first trip abroad—and the first...

Media

02.07.13

Chinese Beverage Maker Turns Legal Setback Into Viral...

TEA LEAF NATION

This is no tempest in an herbal tea pot. The JDB Group, maker of China’s most popular herbal tea—one that raked in approximately 20 billion RMB (USD $3.2 billion) in revenues in 2012—lost another legal battle in its epic trademark war with the state-owned Guangzhou...

Media

02.04.13

Media Censorship and Its Future

OUYANG BIN

The year 2013 has gotten off to an inauspicious start for China’s press, especially for its most outspoken members. At the end of last year, when many of the country’s media were heralding newly installed Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Guangdong province as a modern...

Media

01.30.13

Chinese Web Erupts With Widespread Calls for Change as...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Beijingers are choking on their air—again. Just seventeen days after Chinese cyberspace erupted with complaints about air so bad that it was “beyond index,” denizens of the Chinese capital awoke once again to a city blanketed with smog. Over the past twenty-four hours, the...

Media

01.25.13

Former China State TV Director Bemoans Anti-Japanese...

TEA LEAF NATION

Are Chinese audiences growing weary of anti-Japanese propaganda? It would seem that some, at least, are growing sick of the pathetic villains, superhuman heroes, and lame endings that many Chinese movies and television series about World War II, or what Chinese refer to as the...

Media

01.23.13

A Map of Two Chinas

TEA LEAF NATION

On Friday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced that income inequality in the country exceeds a warning level set by the United Nations.China’s publication of its Gini coefficient—a widely used measure of economic equity—drew attention for a number of reasons....

Media

01.16.13

Their Horizons Widening, China’s Web Users Look...

TEA LEAF NATION

Last week, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt urged North Korean leaders to embrace the Internet. Only a small proportion of that country’s 24 million people can access the World Wide Web, and the majority of the 1.5 million mobile phones there belong to political and...

Media

01.09.13

Why is a Mediocre, Low-Budget Comedy Taking China’s...

TEA LEAF NATION

December 2012 saw hot competition in Chinese cinema. It began with Life of Pi, which was directed by Ang Li, an Oscar-winning director, followed by 1942, a historical movie by director Feng Xiaogang, and The Last Supper, by up-and-coming director Lu Chuan. The film market seemed...

Media

01.08.13

Online and Off, Social Media Users Go to War for...

TEA LEAF NATION

When Mr. Tuo Zhen, the propaganda chief of Guangdong province, rewrote and replaced the New Year’s editorial of the Southern Weekend newspaper without the consent of its editors, he probably did not think it would make much of a splash. Indeed, Mr. Tuo might have believed that...

Media

01.07.13

“Help Me Pay This Bill”: A Short But Incisive Send-...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

It is a social media classic, a send-up of the corruption and profligacy that so often enrage Web users in China. A very short story variously titled “I Did Not Eat For Free” and “Help Me Pay This Bill” has been making the rounds for months on Sina Weibo, China’s...

Media

01.03.13

How a Run-Down Government Building Became the Hottest...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

It is perhaps a sign of the times in China that an image of nothing more than a ramshackle county government building could echo so widely. Since its posting on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, hours before New Year’s Eve, the image (see below) has been shared nearly 70,000 times...

Media

12.24.12

The Most Popular Chinese Web Searches of 2012

TEA LEAF NATION

What did China search for in 2012? It wasn’t the hotly disputed Diaoyu Islands or the widely-watched London Olympics.On Baidu.com, China’s homegrown search engine commanding about eighty-three percent of the Chinese search market, the most popular searches focus on stories...

Media

12.17.12

Media Effort to Emphasize Newtown Tragedy Backfires in...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Tragedy can strike anywhere. Mere hours before the horrific shooting at an American school in Newtown, Connecticut that left twenty-eight people dead, including twenty children, a horrific school attack also happened in China. At an elementary school in a village in Guangshan...

Media

12.12.12

The “Chinese Dream” Means One Thing to its Leaders...

TEA LEAF NATION

Since China unveiled the new Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the country’s Web users have been paying close attention to the new elite group of leaders who will set the country’s agenda for the next decade.A recent...

Media

12.09.12

New Leaders’ Common Touch Gives Netizens “Great...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Glad-handing with the locals. Kissing babies. Eating fast food. These are tried and true ways that American politicians seek to advertise their common touch; but when China’s new leaders employ these methods, it is greeted as a pleasant surprise, maybe even a sign of reform.Xi...

Media

12.04.12

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” Hits the Road

JONATHAN LANDRETH

Debut filmmaker Alison Klayman has been on a global tour with her documentary—Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry—a film about one of China’s most provocative artists and activists, which this week, was named one of fifteen films put on a short list to be considered for a...

Media

12.01.12

Chinese AIDS Activist Endures “Degradation” in New...

TEA LEAF NATION

Chinese people translate “New Yorker” into “New York Ke” to designate people living in New York City, including Chinese immigrants. But in Chinese, “ke” means “visitor” or “guest.” It has been a sad word in Chinese literature and poems for thousands of years,...

Media

11.27.12

Spotted on Weibo: Chinese Leaders Share a Human Moment

TEA LEAF NATION

An active Beijing-based micro-blogger named Dongdong Wang recently tweeted this image on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter: At first glance, it doesn’t look like much: Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao (left) and outgoing President Hu Jintao (right) appear to...

Culture

11.27.12

Remember to Tell the Truth

MAYA E. RUDOLPH

The recording of memory brings history to life and creates a legacy of its own. In 2010, documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang launched the Memory Project to try to shine a light on the long-shrouded memories of one of modern China’s most traumatic episodes—the famine of 1958-...

Culture

11.21.12

A New Tower of Babel

SHEILA MELVIN

Xu Bing, the renowned Chinese artist whose many laurels include a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award and an appointment as vice president of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, has long demonstrated a fascination with the written word.His groundbreaking work, Book from...

Media

11.21.12

Official Online Poll: Chinese Want Democracy

TEA LEAF NATION

With China’s new leadership now set, Chinese Web users have turned their attention to answering the key question: “What’s next?” In concert with the 18th Party Congress, the website of Communist Party-sanctioned Peoples’s Daily hosted an online poll asking Web...

Media

11.19.12

A Conservative Commentator Calls Out Chinese Liberals,...

TEA LEAF NATION

Speech on the Chinese Internet, it seems, is beginning to thaw once more following the country’s leadership transition. After months of speculation, new Chinese leader Xi Jinping was announced on November 16 at the close of the 18th Party Congress, which accompanied a slowdown...

Media

11.02.12

Chinese Movie Mogul Promises New Party Leaders Will...

JONATHAN LANDRETH

A wise old cartoon turtle in Kung Fu Panda advises Po, the portly black and white star of the 2004 DreamWorks Animation blockbuster film, not to fret about honing his fighting skills, but rather to focus on the moment and do his best.“Yesterday is history, tomorrow’...

Media

10.26.12

Myanmar Envy

BI CHENG

Chinese netizens’ reactions to tentative democratic reforms in neighboring Myanmar, including to the recent repeal of censorship rules for private publishers by the Southeast Asian nation’s reformist government, reflect just how closely it’s possible for average Chinese to...

Media

10.11.12

Netizens React to Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize

OUYANG BIN

Upon hearing the news that novelist Mo Yan was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, a flurry of messages about the fifty-seven-year-old Shandong native circulated on weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, expressing decidedly mixed opinions about whether the author of...

Media

09.16.12

What Microblogs Aren’t Telling You About China

AMY QIN

In China, where notions of freedom of speech and freedom of expression are seen by the government as secondary to the all-important ideal of social stability, there is little space, if any, for truly open and unmediated public conversation. Elections, the media, and protests,...

Media

08.30.12

Chinese “Traitors” and the Foreign Press

HU YONG

On June 2nd, local family planning officials forced Feng Jianmei, a twenty-two-year-old Shaanxi woman pregnant with her second daughter, to undergo an abortion, as a consequence of China’s One Child Policy. In years past, this sad story...

Media

08.16.12

The People’s Daily Said What?

BI CHENG

In the course of its dramatic growth, China often churns out unprecedented numbers. But few of them have been more controversial than the recently released National Revival Index, a formula devised to measure China’s economic and social development by the Academy of...

Media

08.03.12

Netizens Weigh in on Weightlifting Defeat

AMY QIN

When seventeen-year-old Zhou Jun from Hubei province stepped onto the mat in London on Sunday, the pressure she was facing far exceeded the weight of the 96-kg barbell sitting at her feet. The entire history of China’s success in women’s weightlifting at the Olympics depended...

Media

07.27.12

Could CCTV's Naming of Flood Victims Signal a Turn...

AMY QIN

In the face of mounting criticism from online commentators and state media, Beijing city officials have finally raised the official death toll of the devastating floodwaters that hit the city last weekend from thirty-six to seventy-seven. The announcement, made by state-run news...

Media

07.05.12

Powerless Media=Powerless Citizens, Says China Youth...

AMY QIN

Tapping into widespread public frustration with corruption among government officials, advocates of press freedom in China seem to have found an effective tool with which to ally citizens to the journalistic cause. In a July 3 editorial published in the China Youth Daily, the...

Media

06.30.12

Bloomberg Unearths Xi Jinping’s Family Fortune

AMY QIN

A recent Bloomberg report detailing the millionaire assets of the extended family of Xi Jinping, China’s presumptive next leader, has drawn praise from the community of China media observers for its thorough investigative work and fact-based reporting. Beijing-based...

Media

06.11.12

A Great Massacre, a Great Earthquake, and a Great...

HU YONG

The head of the Gansu branch of People’s Daily, Lin Zhibo, provoked the ire of many netizens for remarks he made regarding the Great Famine on his Weibo account. Lin claimed that in many of the villages in Anhui and Henan (the two provinces that were hardest-hit during the 1959...

Media

06.11.12

Did A CCTV Anchor’s Outburst Even Matter?

HU YONG

Yang Rui, a host on China Central Television's (CCTV) English-language channel, called on the Public Security Bureau via Sina Weibo on May 16 to “clean out foreign trash, wipe out foreign snake heads (human smugglers), root out foreign spies, kick out foreign shrews (apparently...

Media

06.07.12

An Absent Presence

SUN YUNFAN

In Chan Koonchung’s dystopian science fiction novel The Fat Years, set in China in 2013, the whole month of Feburary 2011 has disappeared from people’s memory. In reality, the month that is closest to being spirited away is the month of June 1989 when the Communist Party of...

Media

06.06.12

In the News: Fact vs. Rumor

AMY QIN

China-focused news editors have had numerous causes for celebration in the past few months. The various scandals surrounding the dethronement of Bo Xilai, the dramatic nighttime escape of blind activist Chen Guancheng, and the upcoming Party leadership have provided a maelstrom...

Media

06.02.12

On Weibo: Cultural Revolution Suicides

AMY QIN

As people across China took part in the June 1 Children’s Day campaigns to, among other things, remember the millions of “left-behind” children in the countryside, some netizens on Weibo spent the time reflecting on another, seemingly bygone, era. Trending on Weibo right...

Media

05.31.12

Godwin’s Law with Chinese Characteristics

HU YONG

This winter writer-blogger-race car-driver Han Han found himself facing charges of plagiarism from celebrated fraud-buster Fang Zhouzi. Both Han and Fang have huge followings among China’s microbloggers. And their personal disagreement soon exploded into a chaotic on-line...

Media

05.29.12

Patriots or Traitors?

AMY QIN

In Chinese, to be patriotic is to ai guo, literally “to love [one’s] country.” But what does it really mean to love your country? Does it mean unconditional support for your country’s government, warts and all? Or is there more room for nuance—can you disagree with the...

Media

05.25.12

Can CCTV Become the Next Al Jazeera?

AMY QIN

In a recent piece published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi assesses the early stages of China's multibillion dollar efforts to expand its domestic media empire onto the global stage. Just this year, CCTV launched two network broadcast centers—one in...

Media

05.24.12

Under the WeiboScope

AMY QIN

With more than 300 million registered users, the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo—sometimes called the Chinese Twitter—can offer unique insights into the quotidian musings of Chinese netizens. One way to sort through the barrage of microblogs posted each second is to...

Media

12.15.11

Anxiety’s Remote Control

HU YONG

The Chinese government agency that English speakers know as SARFT has several monikers. Its full name is the State Administration for Radio, Film, and Television. Literally translated, its Chinese name, guangdian zongju, is more like the "General Office for Radio, Film...