Hollywood lands in crosshairs of Trump admin’s anti-China blitz

The Trump administration on Thursday continued its full-throttle effort to portray China as a threat to United States interests, as Attorney General William Barr lambasted the US’s reliance on Chinese goods and services, and accused US media and technology giants of collaborating with China.

During an address at the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Barr took aim at Hollywood companies, including Walt Disney Co, as well as Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft Corp over their corporate dealings with China.

He also said the US had become overly dependent on Chinese imports of personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight the coronavirus outbreak, including face masks, medical gowns and other protective equipment designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

During his speech, Barr further accused hackers linked to the Chinese government of targeting American universities and businesses to steal research related to vaccine development, levelling the allegation against Beijing hours after Western agencies made similar claims against Russia.

“The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg – an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s pre-eminent superpower,” Barr said on Thursday.

With less than four months before US voters go to the polls to elect their next president, members of the Trump administration have been ramping up their anti-China rhetoric.

In recent months, US-China ties have dipped to their lowest ebb in decades, strained over issues ranging from the global coronavirus pandemic and China’s massive trade surpluses, to Beijing’s suppression of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, its military buildup in the South China Sea and its treatment of minority Muslims.

‘All too willing to collaborate’

On Thursday, US media giants were swept up in the Trump administration’s anti-China campaign.

“Corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the (Chinese Communist Party),” Barr said, adding that Hollywood has routinely caved in to pressure and censored their films “to appease the Chinese Communist Party”.

“I suspect Walt Disney would be disheartened to see how the company he founded deals with the foreign dictatorships of our day.”

The companies and the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately comment. Apple declined a Reuters news agency request for comment.

Barr accused US media and technology first of being too willing to take steps to ease access to the large and lucrative Chinese market.

“The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report,” Barr said. “America’s big tech companies have also allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.”

Barr suggested Apple iPhones “wouldn’t be sold [in China] if they were impervious to penetration by Chinese authorities”. He suggested American tech companies were imposing a “double standard.”

Barr noted after China imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong, Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn, announced they would temporarily suspend compliance with governmental requests for user data.

“If they stand together, they will provide a worthy example for other American companies in resisting the Chinese Communist Party’s corrupt and dictatorial rule.”

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