LOS ANGELES - One of the year’s biggest blockbusters is buzzing China’s proverbial tower. "Top Gun: Maverick" does not have a release date in the Chinese market and some are citing the stance it takes on Taiwan.
Producers of the movie restored the Taiwanese flag on Maverick’s jacket in the film. The flag was initially removed after the movie’s trailer debut in 2019 when it angered mainland China. China does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country – and wants Taiwan to be under its jurisdiction. Tom Cruise’s character wears it to commemorate his father’s tours of duty in Japan and Taiwan.
"It’s the 3 T’s," said Erich Schwartzel, who covers Hollywood for the Wall Street Journal. "Taiwan, Tibet and Tianamen Square. Any movie that touches any of those third-rail topics is likely not going to be shown in Chinese theaters."
Schwartzel wrote a book on China’s attempts to influence culture; Red Carpet: Hollywood, China and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.
"The Chinese Hollywood relationship is heading towards a bit of a divorce," he said.
Schwartzel adds it’s not just Top Gun — recently the new "Spiderman" and "Doctor Strange" films were both not allowed to be shown in Chinese markets.
"This has been a change because, over the last decade the Chinese market has not only been open to Hollywood but also a main source of revenue for it," said Schwartzel.
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Experts say it’s also Top Gun’s "American Exceptionalism and patriotic message that China does not want to show to their homeland.
"They don’t hate the film," Stanley Rosen of USC’s U.S. China Institute, "they just hate the message which is so pro-American."
Professor Stanley Rosen points to the campy Chinese remake of Top Gun the nation produced in 2011.
"They’re known for making their own," said Rosen, "but they’re not as effective."
China is the largest box office in the world and spent $7.3 billion at the movies in 2021.