Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


With any film or play produced in China receiving close government scrutiny at each step of production, this article examines censorship in Chinese cinema in an attempt to make sense of a tradition of sometimes seemingly arbitrary decisions by the authorities. Film, as a particularly visible and communicative media, is particularly subject to governmental interference, and the Chinese government has exploited that vulnerability to the fullest. This article attempts to demonstrate that China takes a similar approach to film censorship as it does to contracts, in the sense that censorship involves continual "negotiations" rather than binding agreement, and in the sense that articulated standards are subject to overriding cultural norms and external factors. This article concludes that film censorship in China, like contracts and constitutional law in China, is contextual, individualized, and continuously negotiable rather than absolute or binding.