This is the third and final part of a series of posts relating to China film law, in which our Beijing-based attorney, Mathew Alderson, is interviewed by CMM-I as part of CMM-I’s sector report “Feature Film Co-production in China.” In this post, Mathew explores issues relating to the regulations governing foreign involvement in film production in China. Parts I and II of this series can be found here and here.


CMM-I:   What are China’s regulations governing Sino-foreign co-productions?

Alderson:   There are several layers of rules and regulations and they include the following:

  1. Guiding catalogue for Foreign-Invested Entities 外商投资单位指导目录
  2. The Regulations on the Administration of Movies 电影管理条例
  3. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television Interim Provisions on Operation Qualification Access for Movie Enterprises 国家广播电影电视总局对电影企业经营资 格的暂行规定
  4. Any applicable treaty, such as The Australia-China Co-production Treaty 中澳合作条 约
  5. SARFT circulars 国家广播电影电视总局的通告
  6. China Movie Industry Promotion Law (not yet in force) 中国电影产业推广法


CMM-I:   How do current Chinese government regulations impact co-productions? Do they pose a serious barrier? If yes, which regulations pose the greatest barriers?

Alderson:   They don’t so much impact co-productions as mandate them. The regulations prohibit foreigners from producing films in China without some kind of Chinese co-production partner. You might say this is a barrier. Article 18 of the Movie Regulations provides: “No overseas organization or individual may be independently engaged in the activity of producing movies inside the territory of the People’s Republic of China.” 第十八条 “境外 组织或者个人不得在中华人民共和国境内独立从事电影片摄制活动。” .


CMM-I:   According to your understanding and experience, what factors influence SARFT’s decision on whether an approval is given or not?

Alderson:   There are stated and unstated factors in the decision-making process. The unstated factors are opaque and will relate to issues or topics periodically considered to be off-limits by higher authorities. Predicting these is impossible, although respecting the approval process and the people charged with implementing it always helps. The officially stated factors that influence decisions are clear enough when you read between the lines. Article 25 of the Movie Regulations prohibits the following kinds of content:

  1. That which defies the basic principles determined by the Constitution;
  2. That which endangers the unity of the nation, sovereignty or territorial integrity;
  3. That which divulges secrets of the State, endangers national security or damages the honor or beliefs of the State;
  4. That which incites national hatred or discrimination, undermines the solidarity of the nations, or infringes upon national customs or habits;
  5. That which propagates evil cults or superstition;
  6. That which disturbs the public order or destroys public stability;
  7. That which propagates obscenity, gambling, violence or instigates crimes;
  8. That which insults or slanders others, or infringes upon the lawful rights and interests of others;
  9. That which endangers public ethics or cultural traditions;
  10. Other content prohibited by the laws, regulations or provisions of the State.
  • I’ve been following Asian news and have noticed several news items on how micro-blogging is on the rise in China because it’s inhabitants because it allows them to partly or wholely avoid the strict government censorship. Thinking along those lines, I do hope it will lead to less strict censorship/propaganda rules over time because enforced jobs in any movie production process will only lead to less creativity, less production value, etc. and thus a less than great film. Now, some of the movies coming out of Hong Kong have been great but will that last with these rules or has the city’s movie glory already faded away?
    Long story short: I’m concerned about censorship, especially when I think about multinationals having no problem enforcing it, you know? Will the political correctness come to us too?

  • LAI

    It sure looks like making a film in China will not be an easy feat not that anything done in ever is.