Show an ad over header. AMP

Disney's Mulan was filmed in Xinjiang amid cultural genocide

This weekend, Disney revealed that some scenes from its live action remake of the 1998 animated classic "Mulan" were filmed in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is engaged in a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against indigenous minorities.

Why it matters: The riches promised by China's massive domestic film market are buying the silence — and even complicity — of one of America's most powerful entertainment empires.


Details: In the credits for the film, which was released over the weekend on the streaming platform Disney+, the company thanks several Xinjiang entities directly involved in the operation or promotion of mass internment camps that analysts estimate are holding one million or more ethnic minorities.

  • One of those entities is the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda commission in Xinjiang, which has produced disinformation justifying the detention camps.
  • Another is a local branch of the regional Xinjiang public security bureau, which in July became subject to new U.S. government sanctions due to its role operating the camps.
  • The Chinese Communist Party tightly controls information and travel in Xinjiang. Foreign journalists, human rights organizations, and foreign government officials have all been denied access.

But Disney employees received special access. In addition to time spent filming, the production team "spent months in and around the northwest province of Xinjiang to do legwork research before the cameras rolled," according to a Sept. 4 interview with Architectural Digest. (Xinjiang is not a province; it is a region).

  • Disney, however, didn't use that unique access to shed a light on what is widely recognized as the largest internment of an ethnic-religious group since World War II.
  • The film does not feature any Uighur characters and refers to Xinjiang in the subtitles as "northwest China," erasing the region's independent identity and reflecting Chinese government propaganda that Xinjiang has "belonged to China since ancient times."
  • Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
Screen grab from the credits roll of Disney's Mulan. Image: Twitter account of Jeannette Ng

The big picture: The Chinese government has learned how to leverageaccess to its lucrative domestic markets, forcing companies around the world to actively support the government's policies in order to access those markets.

  • Other Hollywood studios have also been accused of pandering to the Chinese government, but Disney's theme park business in China makes it even more dependent on continued access to the Chinese market.
  • Former Disney CEO Bob Iger said in his autobiography that he went to Shanghai more 40 times in 18 years to build Shanghai Disneyland.

Companies are increasingly caught in the middle. The U.S. sanctions on the Xinjiang public security bureau, which were issued in July, didn't exist when Disney was filming in Xinjiang but will now force companies to navigate an increasingly complicated regulatory environment, said James Treanor, special counsel at the law firm Cadwalader.

  • "This is an example of the risk going forward for U.S. companies that have any dealings with Xinjiang as sanctions and other restrictive measures are ramped up. The risks are increasing accordingly," Treanor told Axios.

By the numbers: Time will tell whether making Mulan available for a $30 fee on Disney+ will help the company bring in as much money as analysts predicted it would in the pre-pandemic theater era — $1 billion USD worldwide. 

  • According to Sensor Tower, Disney+ global installs across Apple’s App Store and Google Play between Friday, September 4 and Sunday, September 6 increased by 68% from the same period one week prior, thanks to the release of Mulan on Friday. 
  • Disney says Mulan brought in $5.9 million in a small handful of its international theaters. Next weekend Mulan will open in China.  

Our thought bubble: The company had many months of pandemic-related film delays to reveal that some scenes were filmed in Xinjiang, but instead waited until consumers bought their tickets or paid the $30 to stream the film at home.

What to watch: Some Twitter users are using the hashtag #boycottMulan to urge viewers to avoid the film.

Go deeper: China is censoring Hollywood's imagination

Donald Trump's political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

Keep reading... Show less

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to improperly alter election results

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or formal DOJ officials "engaged in improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome," the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

Keep reading... Show less

GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022.

Keep reading... Show less

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Keep reading... Show less

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Keep reading... Show less

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday to at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Keep reading... Show less

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell moves the goalposts on a run for Minnesota governor — again

The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.

What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories