Written by David Zimmermann
What’s happening? Vietnam banned the upcoming Warner Bros. movie Barbie over its depiction of a map that features the nine-dash line, a maritime boundary that China favors. Last Monday, the movie’s reported inclusion of the “Chinese propaganda” map caught the attention of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been frequently outspoken against Hollywood kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Why it matters: The controversy comes as the Defense Department said it will no longer advise or work with Hollywood studios if they comply with China’s cinema censorship guidelines. Cruz inserted similar language into the 2023 defense policy bill that forced the Pentagon to implement the rule. China’s vast population provides a massive market for films, among other industries, pushing corporations like Disney closer to the CCP.
What is the nine-dash line? First inscribed on a Chinese map over 75 years ago, the nine-dash line has been used by China to claim more area in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan have all disputed the communist nation’s territorial claims, and the debate was legally settled in 2016 when an international arbitration court ruled such claims were baseless. The line is more relevant than ever as China moves closer to invading Taiwan and America asserts its dominance in the Pacific.
Warner Bros. responds: The hand-drawn map featuring the controversial line is reportedly found in multiple scenes. Four days after the political backlash ensued, Warner Bros. gave a statement to Variety, calling the map “a child-like crayon drawing” that “was not intended to make any type of statement.”