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Commentaries by Philip Cunningham

Philip Cunningham

Independent Scholar

Philip J. Cunningham has worked in television and film in China and Japan since 1986. His latest book, “Tiananmen Moon: 25th Anniversary Edition,” was published in 2014.
  • Jun 13, 2018

    China’s diplomatic forays into Southeast Asia are periodic and predictable. Yet Premier Li Keqiang may have his work cut out for him in upcoming forays to the region. Shifts in diplomatic outlook on the part of both the U.S. and China are changing the rules as tensions arise and polarize the region.

  • Jul 28, 2017

    Wang Jianlin’s plan to purchase Dick Clark Productions for one billion dollars was blocked by currency controls. The well-documented difficulty of moving dollars out of China in the past year reflects policy designed to slow the rampant purchase of real estate abroad. It is one thing to stem the trend of affluent individuals gobbling up houses in Vancouver and Los Angeles, but quite another to block a company as powerful as Wanda Dalian from moving its cash around.

  • Oct 28, 2016

    Jack Ma made his fortune in online retail, while Wang Jianlin got rich in real estate. Now, both turn their gaze to Hollywood. Their battle for influence is one of those larger-than-life sized conflicts, perfect for reality TV, if not the silver screen.

  • Sep 13, 2016

    Wang Jianlin’s intemperate attack on Disneyland earlier this year is out of key with the generally genial image he has cultivated in the media. To date, he has steered clear of the third rail of politics, seemingly content to make money and influence people in the economic realm.

  • May 30, 2016

    China’s long history with its concentric cycles of buildup and decay tends to support the notion that the general political outlook is knowable, while the specifics remain indeterminate due to complexity. Nothing short of society-wide endeavor can stem the tide of negative trends and polluting influences. Change, for the better, and for the worse, sets in slowly and incrementally, often beyond immediate perception.

  • Apr 14, 2016

    Philip J. Cunningham examines the precarious nature of mass tourism. Both the cause, rooted in China’s steadily growing middle class and the effect, a surplus of tourists to Thailand. Cunningham measures the limited economic benefit, only grasped by those in a small circle of tourist service positions, against the edifying effect of world travel for the once working class.

  • Jan 19, 2016

    At first glance, China’s latest Hollywood deal, Wanda Group’s purchase of Legendary Entertainment, is a hardware-software match made in box-office heaven. However, creative success is quirky, subject to shifting tastes and capricious audience receptivity. More fundamentally, it is rooted in the exercise of free expression.

  • Aug 19, 2015

    It’s time for the number one and number two film powers in the world to engage in some mutually beneficial cultural exchange on the big screen, building on the sturdy China-America symbiosis that props open the doors of trade and underpins so much of today’s prosperity.

  • Feb 09, 2015

    While American governmental influence in Hollywood is not negligible, it still pales in comparison to Chinese governmental influence in the film business. There are groups in both countries that would like film to serve the interests of state, just as there are stubbornly independent filmmakers in both countries as well. From Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (2014) to the popular Chinese TV show, Empress of China (2014), Cunningham explores the relationships between state censorship, and glorified sex and violence.

  • Oct 25, 2014

    Hollywood coffers are boosted by Chinese box-office figures, but Beijing’s guidelines are the cultural price to pay. Yet, as Philip J. Cunningham explains, the logic of box-office success and how political shifts can affect Chinese cultural production is far more confounding.

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