Reauthorize the Export-Import Bank
September 16, 2014
Congress this fall will consider ‘reauthorization’ of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, in an environment in which the 80-year-old Bank has received closer scrutiny than ever before. The Bank’s critics are mistaken. Its mission remains valid and its operations remain important. On four grounds of good public policy and for legitimate national self-interest, Congress should approve the reauthorization and renew the Bank’s charter:
1. In the short term, Ex-Im has an important role in ensuring sustained export-based growth for the U.S., with domestic demand still weak in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
2. Over longer periods, a well-managed public export credit program helps meet unique and carefully defined needs when private credit is scarce, such as for some smaller businesses newly involved in exporting and long-term developing-country imports for power, aviation, and urban infrastructure.
3. Ex-Im is a useful insurance policy against future crises in which private credit may again become unavailable.
4. And in a world of 60 export credit agencies worldwide, in which export credit agencies in China, Germany, Japan,, France, Brazil, and all other major economies provide at least $300 billion in commitments of loans, credit guarantees, insurance, tied aid, and other supports, the United States has a legitimate and strong self interest in averting the systemic disadvantage that could emerge for American exporting businesses and their workers should the Ex-Im Bank be closed.
For the full text of the paper:
India is the smallest exporter among the world's top 10 economies.
September 10, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Likely GDP growth from improved trade facilitation* –
* World Bank & World Economic Forum estimates, 2012, for reducing gaps between these regions and the world’s best performer by 50 percent.
** Excluding Brazil. The WB/WEF projection for Brazil is 3.6%
WHAT THEY MEAN:
As Narendra Modi, India’s new Prime Minister, prepares for his D.C. visit later this month –
Among the world’s big economies, India is the trade underachiever. Ranking 2nd in the world for population and 3rd for PPP-basis GDP, it is 14th for exporting – and at $350 worth of software, clothing, jewelry, generic medicines, etc. shipped out per person annually – and last among the world’s 25 biggest economies in exports per capita.
Why the under-performance? India’s figures reflect some immutable facts of geography and demography – few and not invariably friendly neighbors; a large population and a big internal market – but also attitudes inherited from the post-colonial isolationist phase, and modern-day bureaucratic obstacles. The World Bank’s 2013 Trading Across Borders report, for example, finds the forms and procedural requirements needed to get a shipping container through an Indian port costing $770 per box on average – which in local context is well above Pakistan’s $460, Indonesia’s $455, Sri Lanka’s $480, and Malaysia’s sparklingly efficient $265. Thus the reason the Bank and World Economic Forum estimates find India getting especially big returns from trade facilitation.
And what might be done? Preparing for its campaign last spring, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for a shift in approach, invoking ancient global-economy glory as an inspiration for new modern-day approaches:
“India is the most ancient civilization of the world and has always been looked upon by the world as a land of wealth and wisdom. … From the Vedas to Upanishads and Gautama and Mahavira, and then to Kautilya* and Chandra Gupta and down up to the eighteenth century, India was respected for its flourishing economy, trade, commerce and culture. It had an international outreach from Korea to Arabia, from Bamiyan to Borobudur and beyond. … India was also one of the greatest shipbuilding nations and consequently had an access to international markets. Indian prosperity held the world in thrall. …”
“The modern era is an era of exchange, [and India needs] trade facilitation to ensure easier customs clearances and visas for business travel. … Over-regulation needs to be addressed to stop the harassment of the businessmen and traders. At the same time, we have to set up transparent systems, which ensure credibility of our goods and services. The bottlenecks in transporting and exporting them have to be removed. Also, the flow of information about our tradable items has to be made available to the rest of the world.”
This suggests a systematic move, away from Jawaharlal Nehru’s post-colonial isolationism and towards the ideas of the actual Kautilya referenced in the Manifesto. (Author of a giant policy-manual called Arthashastra, written up somewhere between 300 BC and 150 AD, Kautilya advocated heavy public investment in seaports, land border-crossings, and roads, and a trade-facilitation program through which “the King shall protect trade routes from harassment by courtiers, state officials, thieves, and frontier guards, and from being damaged by herds of cattle.”)
Nonetheless, in government so far BJP has acted in ways contrary to Kautilyan advice and similar to its recent predecessors. Its first big global-economy decision, last July 31st, was to block the WTO’s implementation of its agreement, last November 2013, on trade facilitation. This is a set of measures which, along the manifesto’s lines, would ensure easier customs clearance and visas, reduce harassment of businesses and traders by courtiers and regulatory officials, set up transparent systems, and so on.
The point of India’s veto was to ‘seek negotiating leverage’ for an unrelated change in WTO rules, in order to prevent anyone from filing a disputes against India’s food-stockpiling program as a breach of farm subsidy limits. In point of fact, though, no challenge to this system appeared likely at the time, and the previous Congress Party’s government commitment to endorse the Trade Facilitation Agreement came in exchange for a four-year ‘peace clause’ in which (a) no other WTO member would challenge the stockpiling program, and (b) the WTO members would negotiate out an agreement to meet concerns about its legality under WTO rules. So yes, so far a change. But despite reverence for the classics and promises of new ideas, toward a program which looks less, rather than more, friendly to the global economy.
The BJP campaign manifesto, April 2014: http://www.bjp.org/manifesto2014
… and Commerce Minister Sitharaman in Parliament on the WTO reversal, August 2014: http://commerce.nic.in/pressrelease/pressrelease_detail.asp?id=3113
The World Bank’s Trading Across Borders database: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploretopics/trading-across-borders
And the World Bank/World Economic Forum estimate growth opportunities via trade facilitation: http://reports.weforum.org/global-enabling-trade-2013/foreword/
Kautilya’s Arthashastra – Not exactly an easy read, but lots of interesting passages on classical Indian views of war and the purposes of diplomacy; trade and wealth; marriage law and sexual life (‘the state shall bear the expenditure on training courtesans, prostitutes, and actresses in the following accomplishments: singing, playing musical instruments including the veena, the flute and the mridangam, conversing, reciting, dancing, acting, writing, painting, mind-reading, preparing perfumes and garlands, shampooing, and making love”), religious rituals, labor relations in textile manufacturing, mining gems, and the best ways to poison enemy generals. See pp. 238-240 and 352-356 for tariffs and trade facilitation: http://www.amazon.com/The-Arthashastra-Penguin-classics-Kautalya/dp/0140446036
The WTO, trade facilitation, & food stockpiles -
The WTO’s Trade Facilitation page: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tradfa_e/tradfa_e.htm
What’s the point? At least in the BJP’s telling, India’s blocking of the Trade Facilitation Agreement is not because of a decision that trade facilitation is per se a bad idea, but a tactical sort of option, made because blocking something useful and popular creates a form of ‘negotiating leverage’ to secure a less popular goal. (Forcing a change in the WTO’s Agriculture Agreement to avert possible challenge to India’s food stockpiling program.) This line of thought has its negotiators’ logic, but also its illogic. In blocking the Trade Facilitation Agreement, Indian trade diplomats simultaneously blocked a WTO agreement to refrain from challenges to India’s food stockpiling program until 2018. Thus it is open once again to dispute filings. Attempts by one party to find negotiating leverage invariably lead to searches by others for counter-leverage, the most obvious example being an actual challenge to the stockpiling program. The Brookings Institution’s Joshua Meltzer has ideas on ways to bring it into compliance: http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2014/05/16-world-trade-organization-india-food-security-meltzer
A note on exports per capita –
Export-performance comparisons are never precise. Small countries usually export more of their output than big ones, EU members have extremely high counts, countries with seaports export more than landlocked states, etc. This noted, India’s role in trade is below potential on almost all measures. The world per capita export average is $3,200, with the Netherlands’ $47,440 worth of exported tulips, Gouda, etc. per person in 2012 at the top. Germany’s $20,620 leads among very large economies; America’s $6,900 is comparable to the levels of Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the EU taken as a single big unit. Emerging-economy figures range from Brazil’s $1,156 to Mexico’s $3,172 and Thailand’s $4,400, with Malaysia at the top; China, tops by dollar value, ranks in the emerging-economy middle at $1650 on a per capita basis. At $350, India is about a tenth of the world’s average, midway between Egypt and Ethiopia. A table:
|Papua New Guinea||$850|
Panama Canal cargo capacity will double by 2016.
August 27, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Panama Canal shipping –
|YEAR||SHIP TRANSITS||CARGO TONNAGE|
|1915||969||5 million tons|
|1965||11,834||71 million tons|
|2013||13,660||320 million tons|
|2016||15,000?||600 million tons?|
WHAT THEY MEAN:
To build the Panama Canal, 56,000 workers cut a trench 41 feet deep across 48 miles, including a mountain ridge 275 high and 8 miles wide at the Culebra Cut. From 1906 until the Gatun Locks opened to the Atlantic on August 15th, 1914, these workers – 12,000 from the United States, 20,000 from Barbados, 16,000 from other Caribbean islands, the remaining 8,000 from Europe and Latin America – moved 177 million cubic meters of earth and rock weighing half a billion tons. A hard sum to visualize, but today’s entire world shipping fleet is thought to have a capacity of 1.7 billion tons of cargo.
The Canal cut ocean voyages from New York to San Francisco from 13,000 miles to 5,000 miles, or from the 59-day steamship record set in 1900 to 30 days in the 1920s. As a quick table shows, this jump equaled the effect of replacing sailing ships with steam a generation earlier. It has taken a full century for maritime technology to halve passage time again:
|Clipper ship record, 1854||89 days|
|Pre-Canal steamship record, 1900||59 days|
|Panama Canal average, 1920s||30 days|
On its centennial, with its millionth ship transit now four years into the past, the Canal remains busy. Nearly 14,000 vessels transit each year – one every 45 minutes – and the 320 million tons of cargo they carry make up 3 percent of world maritime cargo and a tenth of the U.S.’ seaborne exports.
But the Canal is also showing its age. The Gatun Locks, the largest concrete structures ever built until the 1930s, can lift and float ships up to 965 feet long and 106 feet wide. In 1914, this meant nearly all world shipping. Today it is still enough for tankers and bulk carriers up to 60,000 deadweight tons of cargo, all automobile shipping, and container ships carrying up to 5,000 twenty-foot containers. But the largest 1,000 of the world’s 5,100 container ships are now too big for the Canal, and they account for half of all world container capacity. And the Canal can handle only 6 percent of the world’s LNG tankers, which implies a sharp limit on future shipments of natural gas from the American Gulf Coast to China and Japan.
Hence the Canal is being redug, through an expansion project approved by the Panamanian government in 2006 and now estimated “78 percent complete.” By the time the new locks open, sometime late in 2015, the project will have moved another 52 million cubic meters of earth and stone - about a third of the excavating and blasting work of 1906-1914. The results will include (a) digging new access channels to the Atlantic and Pacific; (b) deepening the Culebra Cut, and (c) building a new set of locks able to handle ships 1200 feet long and 161 feet wide. The Canal will then be able to accommodate all container ships up to the 13,000-14,000-container capacity range (in practice, all but about 70 of the currently active container ships), and tankers of up to 120,000 deadweight tons of cargo, including most LNG vessels. By 2016, it will be able to carry 600 million tons of cargo a year – 100 times the traffic of its first year a century ago, nearly 10 times the workload of 1965, and twice its current capacity.
The Panama Canal Authority explains the expansion project: http://pancanal.com/eng/general/canal-faqs/tolls.html
A live camera at the Gatun Locks: http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html
The U.S. Maritime Administration explains the implications of Canal expansion for American trade and ports. (Growth in container trade to ports on the Gulf and East Coasts; more viable LNG shipping to Asia; no changes likely in automobile trade and only minor adjustments in metals and bulk farm products like coffee and grains.) MARAD’s take, from December 2013:
A note on budgets –
The 1906-1914 budget for the Canal was $375 million – equal to half of the $725 million in annual Taft-administration spending – and the Canal builders proudly came in $23 million under cost. An often-used ‘equivalent’ in 21st-century dollars is $8 billion, but because prices are so different today and national economies so much bigger, a different measurement might make more sense. US GDP in 1910 was about $35 billion, meaning the Canal cost was about 1 percent of GDP. A modern equivalent might therefore be a $175 billion 8-year project. The budget for the 21st-century expansion was originally $5.25 billion, and will likely end up (depending on litigation) around $7 billion.
A human perspective -
A century ago, the Canal Commission’s massive Barbadian labor recruitment is said to have brought 40 percent of the island’s adult men to Panama, and cut its population from 200,000 in 1900 to 172,000 in 1910. A tenth of the Canal workforce died during construction – 5,609 people, including 4,290 of the 36,000 Caribbean workers – of yellow fever, malaria, landslides, explosions, railway accidents, and other illnesses and workplace injuries. The Canal Commission’s annual report for 1910, for example, reports 548 deaths among employees, including 164 from industrial accidents (most frequently railroad), 376 deaths from disease, and 8 deaths from causes unrelated to labor, such as homicide and lightning strike. By country, that year’s death-toll included 167 workers from Barbados, 113 from Jamaica, 49 from Martinique and Guadeloupe, 60 from other Caribbean islands, 48 from Spain, 36 from Colombia and Panama, and 31 from the United States. The unsuccessful French effort to build a Panama Canal in the 1880s (before the discovery of the mosquito vector for malaria and yellow fever) was deadlier still, costing a reported 20,000 lives.
If the modern Canal expansion’s finances have been a bit less disciplined than those of 1906-1914, its workers appear much safer. ProgressiveEconomy’s search for a systematic labor-safety record of the expansion project hasn’t succeeded. But here are three indicators: (a) the labor health and safety sections of the annual State Department human rights reports suggest that about 15 people per year die in industrial accidents throughout Panama, but mention no Canal fatalities; (b) a current dispute between the Canal Authority and the International Transport Workers Federation includes a claim by the union alleging “lack of proper respect and bargaining on issues surrounding health and safety provision on the job,” but again mentions no fatalities or individual accidents; and c) Google news searches find three reports of fatal accidents on the Canal from 2012 to the present. These presumably miss some information, but do suggest that contemporary fatalities are extremely rare – perhaps 99 percent below the rate of a century ago.
“We Were Giants” – Barbados remembers the 20,000 at the Centennial: http://gisbarbados.gov.bb/index.php?categoryid=8&p2_articleid=12746
And a commemorative in Panama: http://www.bajanreporter.com/2014/08/plaque-commemorates-caribbean-contribution-to-building-the-panama-canal/
And next -
Are the new locks already too small? Bloomberg News reports on thinking about a possible fourth set of locks, meant to accommodate the possible 20,000-container ships of the 2020s: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-14/panama-weighs-another-canal-expansion-at-centennial-mark.html
Honduras' murder rate is 15 times the world average, and 20 times the U.S. rate.
August 20, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Murders per year,* per 100,000 people –
Technically ‘intentional homicides;’ source is UN Office of Drugs and Crime, 2012 or most recent year available. ‘Central America’ defined as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Writing in the Congressional newspaper Roll Call last week, New Democrat Coalition member Rep. Joe Garcia of Miamia and ProgressiveEconomy co-founder/GlobalWorks Foundation Chairman Claude Fontheim look at the humanitarian crisis posed by the flight of Central American children to the southern border. Drawing some lessons from Colombia’s experience with violence and crime in the 1990s, the two call for a “comprehensive economic development and security program for Central America,” aimed at economic development, capacity-building, and poverty reduction. Background:
The journey from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to El Paso covers 1600 miles by bus, safe house, and top of train; crosses three national borders; and requires trust at every step in the good faith of bribe artists and paid ‘escorts’. An in-depth article in The Guardian interviews people in Mexican detainment centers and Honduras’ commercial capital San Pedro Sula, asking why they would make such a trip. One woman’s account:
“Their problems began, she said, when she refused the advances of a local drug trafficker. Soon after, the family home was sprayed with bullets, and the whole family fled to the capital, Tegucigalpa. When the dealer tracked her down once again, she led her siblings north in the hopes of joining their mother. They got to Chiapas before being detained by Mexican officials.”
And a second, from the morgue in San Pedro Sula:
“Two workers at the San Pedro Sula morgue, interviewed separately, said the number of bodies they receive is significantly higher today than it was a year ago. Stories are also piling up of young children forced to work as lookouts, messengers or spies for the gangs. Eight children, between the ages of 7 and 13, were kidnapped and killed in La Pardera barrio during May. Word on the street is that they were killed for refusing to join the dominant local gang.”
In statistical terms, these gangs and narcotics industries have given Honduras the highest homicide rate in the world: 90.4 per 100,000 people, with rates in San Pedro Sula itself believed as high as 173 per 100,000. Nationwide, this meant 7,172 murders in 2012, in a country of 7.6 million. By way of context, the U.S. had 14,600 murders among 314 million Americans in 2012; the European Union, fewer than 6,500 among 500 million people.
Honduras’ case is the extreme, but the crisis of crime and violence is regionwide. Across the five Central American countries, annual homicides are at 16,200, below the yearly casualty averages during the civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s. Widening the lens to the Caribbean littoral, since 2000 homicide rates have risen from 50.9 to 90.4 per 100,000 for Honduras, 25.9 to 39.9 for Guatemala, 17.2 to 44.7 for Belize, 9.8 to 17.2 for Panama, and 32.9 to 53.7 for Venezuela.
Here is the origin of the flow of teenagers. What can be done?
Garcia and Fontheim agree that emergency humanitarian response at the border is necessary, but find a solution in response to crime and social stability within Central America rather than immigration policy. Colombia over the past 15 years provides evidence that policy can succeed in the midst of great stress: after peaking at 69 homicides per 100,000 in 2002, Colombia’s rate has dropped by 60 percent, through domestic measures combining legal reform, economic development, and training against crime and narcotics-trafficking backed by a $7 billion U.S. commitment under “Plan Colombia.” Drawing on this experience but adapting policy to a different set of challenges – a poorer region, with larger youth gang challenges but no organized guerrilla movement and less-organized narcotics businesses – they call for:
“A comprehensive economic plan to address the deadly combination of extreme violence perpetrated by ruthless gangs, ineffective law enforcement and inadequate administration of justice, and unacceptably high poverty levels in Central America. …. Toward this end, we recommend greatly expanded capacity building assistance to enable market-based economic development that promotes the establishment of a reliable legal and judicial system, transparent and effective government, infrastructure upgrades that enhance trade and competition, as well as investments in education and healthcare. Security, economic development, and an effective legal and judicial system go hand-in-hand. These countries need a holistic approach that addresses all three.”
Claude Fontheim & Rep. Joe Garcia in Roll Call on humanitarian crisis, capacity-building, and response at the source: http://www.rollcall.com/news/confronting_a_crisis_child_refugees_at_our_southwest_border_commentary-235694-1.html
And a look back at Plan Colombia: http://bogota.usembassy.gov/plancolombia.html
Background to crisis -
About 3.1 million Central Americans live in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2000. The region has provided about 10 percent of America’s 21st-century immigrants. Statistical background on Central American migration trends: http://migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states
The Guardian reports from detention centers in southern Mexico and the San Pedro Sula morgue: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/09/central-america-child-migrants-us-border-crisis
The LA Times on the symbiotic relationships of gang affiliates in Los Angeles and Honduras: http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-c1-honduras-violence-20131216-dto-htmlstory.html
And the University of Maryland looks at Central American gangs operating in Montgomery County, Maryland, and El Salvador: http://gangs.umd.edu/Gangs/MS13.aspx
And some grim context on homicide –
The Caribbean/Central American region includes 7 of the world’s 10 highest murder rates in the world, with Honduras 90.4 per 100,000 people first, Venezuela’s 53.7 second, Belize’s 44.7 third, El Salvador’s 41.2 fourth, Guatemala’s 39.9 fifth, and Jamaica’s 39.3 sixth. San Pedro Sula’s 187 homicides per 100,000 people is the highest measured, though no comprehensive city-by-city list exists. The world’s lowest homicide rates are in Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Data by country and capital city from the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime: http://www.unodc.org/gsh/en/data.html
By comparison, the U.S.’ national homicide rate is 4.7 per 100,000. This is still high for wealthy countries, but has been cut by half from the 9.3 per 100,000 measured in 1992, and barely a twentieth of Honduras’ figure. The highest rate for any American state is Louisiana’s 10.8 per 100,000 while New Hampshire’s 1.1 per 100,000 is lowest; Detroit’s 54.6 is the highest for any major U.S. city. U.S. homicide rates and other data from the FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/violent-crime/murder
The world spectrum runs from Honduras’ 90.4 per 100,000 to Japan’s 0.3. A list including 34 countries, 17 cities, and 8 U.S. states:
|PLACE||RATE PER 100,000|
|San Pedro Sula, Honduras||173.0|
|Guatemala City, Guatemala||116.6|
|Belize City, Belize||105.0|
|Papua New Guinea||10.4|
|New York City, NY||5.1|
|New York (state)||3.5|
Chinese box office for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" - $115.6 million.
August 13, 2014
THE NUMBERS: Box-office revenue leaders in China, 2014* -
|Transformers: Age of Extinction||301.0 million|
|The Monkey King||$167.8 million|
|X-Men: Days of Future Past||$116.5 million|
|Captain America: The Winter Soldier||$115.6 million|
*Data from “Box Office Mojo,” affiliated to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Jan.-June 2014.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Han Yu, Tang dynasty literary man and patron of cultural nationalism, protests a Buddhist ceremony at the Palace (819 A.D.) as a foreign threat to Chinese culture:
The Buddha was of foreign origin. His language differed from Chinese speech; his clothes were of a different cut. Let us suppose him to be living today, and arriving at the capital as an emissary of his country. Your Majesty would receive him courteously. But only one interview in the audience chamber, one banquet in his honor, one gift of clothing, and he would be escorted under guard to the border that he might not mislead the masses.
Han ungenerously terms the observance “nothing more than a theatrical amusement,” but fears its effects nonetheless, as “the people are foolish and ignorant, and are easily deceived and with difficulty enlightened.” A millennium on, People’s Liberation Army Col. Gong Fanbin feels a similar emotion, but for actual theatrical amusements: Col. Gong fears that Hollywood movies are “changing the thinking and values of the [Chinese] nation’s youth,” are thus an ‘unconventional security threat’ to Chinese culture, and ought to be a national-security priority for the Chinese government.
To start with a particular case: Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened in China on April 4th. Its $39.2 million in Chinese box-office accounted for over half of the film’s $75 million total “international” opening weekend revenue, and for context, nearly 40 percent of the $96 million it earned in its first U.S. weekend. For the year through June, Winter Soldier ranks fourth in Chinese box-office; Transformers is first, the Buddhist-classic/action-flick Monkey King second (a Hong Kong production drawn from the 15th-century novel, and an illustration of how badly Han Yu’s criticism of Buddhism as non-Chinese flopped), and an X-Men installment third.
Now the overall context: According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), China returned $3.6 billion in box-office revenue for 2013 – double the $1.7 billion in 2010, and 10 percent of the $35.9 billion in total international revenue – and became the first country to top $3 billion. Thirteen of China’s top 20 movies so far in 2014 are American-produced, compared to 10 in 2008. A couple of reasons for this surge:
More opportunity: Since 2000, China’s urban population has grown by 300 million, and per capita income (by the World Bank’s count) has risen from $950 to $6,800. So more people live near theaters, and they have more money to spend.
Fewer barriers: Second, more chances to see specifically foreign films. The 1980s revival of Chinese cinema came with a series of protectionist measures: “blackouts” of foreign films, competitive release scheduling, censorship, and a national ‘quota’ of no more than 10 foreign films shown in any single year. China’s WTO membership agreement in 2001 raised this quota from 10 films to 20. In 2012, a successful American WTO case raised it again to 34 films, with an understanding that the additional films would be formatted for IMAX and 3D. (IMAX opened in China in 2007, and now counts 159 theaters there, out of 873 worldwide; 239 more are scheduled to open in ‘Greater China’ by 2021.) The IMAX concentration may give advantage to high-CGI action and sci-fi films, as opposed to more traditional and slower-paced romances, comedies, and dramas; China’s four highest-grossing movies this year are all IMAX-formatted.
Back now to Winter Soldier. What is the emotional appeal of the American superhero to Chinese youth? “Douban,” a review site for film buffs in China, features some unsurprising comments – handsome lead actor, explosions – but also (via Foreign Policy) an observation on the appeal of the film’s corrupt-enemy-within theme and the complex nature of patriotism:
“[The new villain] is the very country he loves and protects….To love one’s country isn’t the same as loving one’s government: This is the main draw of Captain America.”
Col. Gong may well be right to believe foreign films – even CGI-heavy blockbusters – can change thinking and values. However, like Han Yu in retrospect, he looks to be in a minority in believing these changes are bad. A 2008 poll done by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for example, found 14 percent of Chinese viewing the influence of American popular culture as ‘very positive’ and 57 percent as mainly positive. A modest 19 percent thought the influence ‘mainly negative,’ and only 4 percent shared the Col.’s ‘very negative’ view.
Then & now–
Then & now–
Han Yu vs. Buddhism, 819: http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/hanyu.html
… the Lotus Sutra: http://www.amazon.com/The-Lotus-Sutra-Burton-Watson/dp/0231081618
… and Monkey King: http://themonkeykingmovie.com/site/
Gong Fanbin vs. Hollywood, 2014: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1404926/cultural-threats-among-five-focuses-new-national-security-panel-colonel
… U.S. journal Foreign Policy looks at Winter Soldier and the Chinese movie-goer: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/04/11/captain_america_captain_china
… and Captain America: The Winter Soldier: http://marvel.com/captainamerica
Chinese box-office figures for the top 89 movies released Jan.-June 2014: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/china/yearly/
The MPAA (2011) on global revenues and the Chinese film-buff: http://www.boxoffice.com/latest-news/2012-03-22-mpaa-global-box-office-climb-continues-in-2011
Box-office by country for Winter Soldier, with China accounting for about 28 percent of receipts outside the U.S.: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=marvel14b.htm
And a list of the 159 IMAX theaters in China: https://www.imax.com/countries/CN/
Policies & attitudes -
The White House reports the US-China film agreement, 2012: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/17/united-states-achieves-breakthrough-movies-dispute-china
The Committee of 100 (a Chinese-American Association) surveys perceptions in the U.S. and China, 2012:
And the Chicago Council’s 2008 poll, with views on American popular culture in five Asian countries at pp. 14-15. Quick summary: Japan 83 percent good, China 70 percent, South Korea 64 percent, Vietnam 60 percent, Indonesia the outlier, with a disgruntled 27 percent: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/Files/Studies_Publications/POS/POS2008/Soft_Power_in_Asia.aspx
SPECIAL NOTE: Research and drafting for this Fact by Pam Levy, summer research associate for the GlobalWorks Foundation. Ms. Levy is a senior at George Washington University.