21st century Hollywood sci-fi: Telling China’s stories well

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


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 paper will argue that in the 21st Century Hollywood science fiction films started to participate in serving Chinese politics as nationalistic propaganda and nation branding as part of the soft power initiatives of China’s public diplomacy effort of ‘telling China’s stories well’ in exchange for access to China’s lucrative box office. To enter the Chinese market, Hollywood films must go through the same standards of content regulation and censorship as domestic films and satisfy the Central Propaganda Department, which regulates the film industry. While most Hollywood films do not include any representations of China, a trend emerged in the 2010s for globally popular science fiction films to have international stories that cater to including China in the narrative, such as the Transformers series (2009-2014), Pacific Rim (2013), Gravity (2013), Robocop (2014), The Martian (2015), Arrival (2016), and Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019).

The argument is supported by archival research of China’s film industry laws and regulations and textual film analysis. The paper will show that in 21st Century Hollywood science fiction Western countries falter and China takes on world leadership roles. Representations show the Chinese government, citizens, or ideologies either directly save the world or provide the turning point for success and that China is the most advanced and technologically capable country. Internally, these are all notions of internal national pride promoted by post-1989 nationalistic propaganda themes. There is an unfulfilled expectation that the external international perception of China should reflect internal notions of national pride, which these films aim to fulfill. The overall conclusion is that 21st Century Hollywood science fiction presents China as the leading ideological, cultural, political and commercial global power, realizing the goal of government film policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022
EventChina’s Cultural Diplomacy and Nation Branding Conference: Conference of Centre for Chinese Visual Arts - Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Dec 20222 Dec 2022


ConferenceChina’s Cultural Diplomacy and Nation Branding Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Hollywood
  • China
  • Film Studies
  • Science Fiction
  • Nationalism
  • National Image


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