The debut of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was widely celebrated around the world not only for its success in full pandemic, but also for being the first major hero film starring an Asian — an achievement of representation comparable to what we saw with Black Panther years ago. And while this is an undeniable milestone, the arrival of the Kung-Fu Master and the entire eastern side of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a reflection of a much larger phenomenon that goes beyond the screens of cinema.
The hero translates well the cultural expansion of China around the world, something that has become quite recurrent in the entertainment world. Before Shang-Chi, animations such as On the Way to the Moon and Din and the Dragon Genius arrived on Netflix with super-production status, while games like Genshin Impact have turned out to be huge hits in the West — all of them bringing or representing the country in some way. .
New Marvel movie talks a lot about the Chinese influence in the world even outside the theaters (Image: Press Release/Marvel Studios)
But this is nothing new and neither is it a Chinese exclusivity. In fact, this cultural export is something quite common and a way for countries to demonstrate their strength and influence on the global stage. Just see how the American way of life is so common to us — even with most of us never having been to the United States — or how we have a vision of Japan as a country that unites tradition and modernity based solely on what anime and video games do. have passed us by for years.
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This is what international relations call soft power, that is, a smooth demonstration of a country’s influence, in which it shows its strength without having to enter the field of military force. “It is a strategy that a given country adopts to make its international insertion and to achieve certain goals”, explains Wilson Maske, PhD in History from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) and professor of Contemporary History at PUCPR, in an interview with Canaltech. “It’s a softer, sweeter way to influence the world and change public opinion in the world. And financing and forwarding the theme of the cultural industry is one of those strategies.”
Basically, we are talking about the way a country presents itself to others, building an image in front of the world. As Maske details, there are different ways in which this can be done, either with the largest industrial presence in a certain region of a foreign country — as portrayed in the movie American Industry — offering opportunities exchange programs and even in sports. Just think about the perception we had of each country in the last Olympics based on their performance in different sports.
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Animation A Caminho da Lua brought much of Chinese mythology with a Disney costume (Image: Press Release/Netflix )
However, entertainment is still the most common and efficient in this regard. “The cultural industry is a smart way to improve public opinion on a particular issue or country”, says the professor. “It’s something much more subtle than an advertisement, where you can have more resistance. When you see a good movie, it entertains you and you receive everything in a more positive way.”
It’s enough to see our relationship with American cinema. For decades we consumed not only the movies and series, but also the ideas and worldviews that these productions carried. We import a good part of the American way of life only from the things we see in the TV and cinema, in the same way that we face the world and its geopolitics from these perspectives.
This is because, as much as this influence is not always evident – or even deliberate – , she is there impacting us and shaping the way we see the United States or even its partners and rivals. “Have you ever seen an American film speak ill of the country? Or the defeats they had?” asks Maske.
Only that the soft power can also be used beyond political interests. As said, the idea is to transmit an image of a country to the rest of the world. Japanese animes and games, for example, contributed a lot to our vision of Japan as a place of very advanced technology where discipline and customs help make everything more efficient.
Something very similar is noticeable with South Korea, whose expansion of k-pop and series on Netflix — the so-called k-dramas — coincides with the increased presence of South Korean industry around the world. Just look at what Samsung has become over the last decade.
For Maske, China’s increased cultural participation is part of this “eastern invasion” that we’ve seen over the past few years 13 years old. “There is a whole generation that has a very positive view of eastern countries like Japan and China. They like things like comic books, martial arts and the food itself”, explains the professor, who points out that the modern character these productions carry has a strong appeal among younger audiences and helps to maintain their influence. countries in the West. “So much so that a discipline was created at the university just for the History of Contemporary Asia and students are hallucinated by it.”
Animes are still major elements of cultural influence in Japan for the construction of the image of a technologically advanced country (Image: Disclosure/Prime Video)
E , according to him, there are several reasons that help explain this interest — and that countries are knowing how to capitalize on it very well, while using it in favor of their own agendas. “There is the industry that produces this and wants to sell it, there is the country that is interested in this cultural industry to use as soft power and the consumer is interested in it all,” explains Maske. “It is important to emphasize that the public is not obliged to do anything. He consumes because he likes it. It’s a generational issue and today we have China moving towards doing what Japan has done before.”
The increasingly Chinese culture
So, it is possible to understand a little more why China’s presence in cultural products has increased in recent years. As stated, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is just the latest example of this demonstration of influence by what we consume for entertainment.
In 2020 , this was quite evident in the gaming world with Genshin Impact