Man at His Best

CNY Special: Zhang Yimou Talks Matt Damon And Splendorous China

Softly does it: How to win friends and influence people.

BY Daniel Goh | Jan 23, 2017 | Film & TV

Even with criticism of ‘The Great Wall’ being whitewashed, Matt Damon still managed to save one of the Wonders of the world, making a buttload of money for the movie studio while doing so. Just forget the whole white-man-saves-the-world trope for a moment because there’s a more interesting story here. But first, take a look at this making-of interview with the film’s director, the internationally acclaimed Zhang Yimou, whose award-winning oeuvre includes Hero, Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers.

The influence that America exudes over the world comes in part from its pop culture, which foreign policy wonks call 'soft power'. The production company behind ‘The Great Wall’ is Legendary East, which is part of Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment which, in turn, was recently acquired by China’s Dalian Wanda Group for US$3.5 billion in cash.

So what does Wanda, which houses the world's largest property company, want with a movie production house? A quick look at the group's company profile reveals its main business to be property, finance and "cultural industry". Not content with a takeover of Legendary Entertainment (whose CEO recently announced his resignation), Wanda has also been on a shopping spree, snapping up Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions and US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings. With this, Wanda has the means to make and distribute its products -- and influence -- around the world.

Wang Jianlin, Wanda's founder and chairman and not coincidentally China’s richest man, had this to say about Hollywood: “The income is not so big, but its influence is very large." Wang was once deputy to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and appears to exemplify Deng Xiaoping's dictum about Chinese communism and cats: doesn't matter if they're black or white, so long as the catch mice. Even better if they're cool cats.