The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 3 of 3: Forget It, Jack, It’s Chinatown

Cross posted on China Law Blog.

Part 1: The Ancient History of the DVD is here.

Part 2: Who Wants What is here.

I won’t pretend any expertise on Hollywood-China film politics, but it does sound like it would make for a fantastic dark comedy.  The story would certainly include the profit-sharing agreements whereby Chinese firms are the overwhelming beneficiaries of Hollywood’s growing popularity.  It would include the endless, conflicted efforts of government distributors and censors to damage the Hollywood golden goose in the name of Chinese culture, by suddenly yanking Hollywood hits out of theaters, releasing them on the same day, or bowdlerizing them into (even more) incoherent messes.  It would include the endless variety of Hollywood efforts to appease these capricious gods, whether by throwing Chinese actors into weird extra scenes for Chinese releases, stripping films of Chinese bad guys, launching joint ventures with Chinese princelings, or—allegedly—paying bribes for valuable exhibition slots, which the SEC is now investigating.  Although some Chinese players probably benefit by keeping Hollywood guessing, one should assume that such privileges will eventually find their price. Continue reading “The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 3 of 3: Forget It, Jack, It’s Chinatown”

The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 2 of 3: What Everyone Wants

Again, this is jointly posted with China Law Blog.

Part 1: ‘The Ancient History of the DVD’ is  here.

Part 3: ‘Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown’ is here.

Although we initially approached piracy an intellectual property issue, we ended up spending a lot of time on the determinants of price and availability in legal markets, and so on questions of media ownership and market structure.  And when we looked at these, it was clear that the structural issue that mattered most was the extent to which legal and cultural barriers sheltered domestic studios and distributors from Hollywood.  Outside India and China, there were very few successful domestic film industries.  Once vibrant examples—in Europe of course, but also Mexico, Russia, and Japan—had become marginal in their home markets and inconsequential abroad.  There are many reasons for this decline.  Hollywood’s mastery of widely-accessible spectacle is a big part of it, of course.  But so too is the advantage of operating from a rich home market, with stronger investment infrastructure and the ability to amortize production costs.  So too is its much more effective control of the rest of the system, from saturation advertising, to the control or manipulation of distribution networks, to the capture of legislation, trade negotiations and state subsidy programs, to an ability to capitalize on the economic volatility of developing-world economies, which has periodically decimated local film industries.  The Hollywood studios do all of this better than anyone else.  Whether Transformers 4 is any good or not is very unlikely to matter. Continue reading “The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 2 of 3: What Everyone Wants”

The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 1 of 3: The Ancient History of the DVD

Dan Harris at China Law Blog invited me to write a post about the launch of the Chinese translation of Media Piracy in Emerging Economies.  There is no China chapter in the report, but of course there are numerous China connections and parallels.  Here’s an attempt to explore those connections, in three parts.  Part 1 sets up the pricing argument that will be familiar to MPEE aficionados.

Part 2: What Everyone Wants, gets into film exhibition and market protection.

Part 3: Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown, discusses the politics and future of Hollywood in China.


Our headline finding is pretty simple: developing-world piracy is driven by high media prices, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies—and has not been significantly impacted by scaled-up enforcement.  This is the sort of statement that’s obvious in most developing countries but that is still off limits in most international IP policy conversations, which are driven by the big copyright trade associations—the MPAA, BSA, IFPI, and so on.  As a result, we have a policy debate focused single-mindedly on strengthening enforcement.  But in our view, if you’re really concerned about piracy, you need to ask which of those other things will change: prices, incomes, or cheap tech?  “Income” is a fine long-term answer in some countries but the realistic short-term answer—the one that rights holders can actually do something about—is “prices.”  Let’s take the example of DVD piracy. Continue reading “The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 1 of 3: The Ancient History of the DVD”

MPEE goes to China

For those of you who have been waiting to read Media Piracy in Emerging Economies in Chinese, we have good news!

We are pleased to release MPEE-Chinese Edition, free for download under a CC license.

We (Joe Karaganis and Jinying Li) will also  be giving public talks at CUHK in Hong Kong and Renmin U in Beijing in mid-June. Details as they become available.

The translation was a major project, and we owe special thanks to Huijia Xie, South China University of Technology, Jinying Li, from Oregon State, and–on the production side–Lijin Zhou from Peking University.

Data Laundering Done Right: the ITC China Study

I guess this doesn’t come as a big surprise, but the recent mini-scandal over McKinsey & Co’s survey of employers’ responses to the US health care reform act shows pretty clearly how pressure for transparency in policy research in the US depends on disagreement between the two parties.  In this case, when the survey showed a surprisingly high number of employers dropping employee health care coverage in response to the Act, Senator Max Baucus led the call for more research disclosure, arguing that “honest public discourse requires a standard level of transparency — one McKinsey simply has not met.”  Baucus released a letter to McKinsey management that included a laundry list of requirements for “standard professional practice.”  Continue reading “Data Laundering Done Right: the ITC China Study”