Hollywood in China

Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Movie Market

The inside story of the U.S.-Chinese superpower conflict playing out behind the scenes of today’s movie industry, from the leading media scholar

“The Chinese market is so big that it changes the calculus for which films make money and hence, going forward, which films get made in the first place. Would Hollywood speak Chinese, literarily and figuratively?” —from the introduction

China surpassed North America to become the world ’s largest movie market in 2020. Formerly the focus of exotic fascination in the golden age of Hollywood, today the Chinese are a make-or-break audience for Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. And movies are now an essential part of China’s global “soft power” strategy: a Chinese real estate tycoon, who until recently was the major shareholder of the AMC theater chain, built the world’s largest film production facility. Behind the curtains, as this brilliant new book reveals, movies have become one of the biggest areas of competition between the world’s two remaining superpowers.

Will Hollywood be eclipsed by its Chinese counterpart? No author is better positioned to untangle this riddle than Ying Zhu, a leading expert on Chinese film and media. In fascinating vignettes, Hollywood in China unravels the century-long relationship between Hollywood and China for the first time.

Blending cultural history, business, and international relations, Hollywood in China charts multiple power dynamics and teases out how competing political and economic interests as well as cultural values are manifested in the art and artifice of filmmaking on a global scale, and with global ramifications. The book is an inside look at the intense business and political maneuvering that is shaping the movies and the U.S.-China relationship itself—revealing a headlines-grabbing conflict that is playing out not only on the high seas, but on the silver screen.


“An able chronicle of the deep, tumultuous relationship between Hollywood and Chinese cinema.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Ying Zhu’s new book on the Hollywood-China connection . . . reveals, in often fascinating detail, the unexpected parallels between the two industries at various stages of development, showing how such hot-button topics as competition, censorship, and Chinese sensitivities to their treatment in Hollywood films predate the Communist period, and have been there almost from the beginning.”
—Stanley Rosen, professor of political science and international relations, USC U.S.-China Institute
“In Hollywood in China, Ying Zhu continues her stunning in-depth analysis of the contemporary Chinese media industries. Her astute focus here is on China’s century-long interplay with Hollywood, as the Chinese film industry matches and ultimately surpasses Hollywood on the home front, and threatens to surpass it in the global movie marketplace as well.”
—Thomas G. Schatz, professor emeritus, University of Texas at Austin
Hollywood in China is full of fascinating historical details.”
Mekong Review
“[Hollywood in China] reflects the changing fortunes of Hollywood in China and shows clearly that Chinese film culture can exist both with and without Hollywood.”
Film International
“Hard to imagine a more necessary book on the movie business than Ying Zhu’s twinned account of the Chinese and American film industries. Hollywood in China is scholarly, lucid, and intriguing—as well as a fresh slant on Sino-U.S. relations.”
—J. Hoberman, author of The Red Atlantis
“Ying Zhu provides the historical depth and analytic acumen required to comprehend the thorny connection Hollywood maintains with China’s vast movie market and complex film production industry. Hollywood in China tells the epic story of this motion picture courtship from the Republican Era to China’s post-Mao opening to world commerce, and it shows how this movie marriage endures rumblings of divorce from the Cold War, trade war, and other threats of pandemic proportions.”
—Gina Marchetti, professor of comparative literature, University of Hong Kong, and author of Citing China
“Researchers of film history, Chinese media and popular-culture studies, and China-U.S. business relations will find this densely written book both useful for consultation and fascinating for its study of the historical influence of Hollywood on China and vice versa.”
“[Hollywood in China] weaves together a range of sources to offer a complex tapestry of stories, while its historical overview of the Chinese film industry’s relationship with Hollywood makes a valuable contribution to cinema studies.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
Hollywood in China folds an unusually broad range of industry data into an overarching historical narrative: as a one-stop shop for facts and figures about the Chinese film market, and Hollywood’s presence therein—about what happened, where and when—it is therefore invaluable.”
China Quarterly

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Literary Hub

Read an excerpt from Ying Zhu’s Hollywood in China in Lit Hub about Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong's fourth wife, and her influence on mid-century Chinese film.

Books by Ying Zhu

Two Billion Eyes
The Story of China Central Television

Ying Zhu

Goodreads Reviews