2010s Hollywood science fiction: Telling China’s stories well to the world

Stephen Andriano-Moore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, film has been regulated in terms of Mao Zedong’s proclamation that ‘art serves politics’. This article argues that in the 2010s, Hollywood science fiction films serve Chinese politics as nation-alistic propaganda and nation branding as part of the soft power initiatives of China’s public diplomacy efforts of ‘going global’ and ‘telling China’s stories well’ in exchange for access to China’s lucrative box office. While most Hollywood films do not include any representations of China, this article identifies a trend in Hollywood science fiction films from the 2010s where entities of China play major roles in the narrative. The article applies narrative and textual analysis to illumi-nate national image building in five Hollywood films: 2012 (2009), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), RoboCop (2014), Arrival (2016) and Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018). These films realize the goal of China’s film policy for positive images of China, such as the world’s leading political and industrial power. The depictions of China are shown to reflect the Made in China 2025 initiative for securing global dominance in technology and manufacturing and links these depictions to the China Dream. The article concludes with a comparative analysis of the Chinese science fiction films Reset (2017) and Shanghai Fortress (2019) and finds that the Hollywood films contain the same national images and narrative roles of China as these domestic films. While this article sheds light on one case of the impact of China on the content of one nation’s films, it is just a small example of the impact of China’s film policy on national cinemas as there are 22. countries with Chinese co-production agreements resulting in over five hundred Sino-foreign co-production revenue-sharing films in the 2010s from countries around the world whose content has been regulated by the Chinese government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-354
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Contemporary Chinese Art
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • China Dream
  • China film policy
  • co-production
  • Made in China 2025
  • nation branding
  • propaganda
  • textual analysis
  • ‘going global’


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