The Chinese company is expanding elsewhere, acquiring cinema chains in Australia and Europe in steps toward its goal of controlling 20 percent of the global film market by 2020. It is also heavily investing in China’s domestic industry, including a 400-acre film studio slated to open in 2017 that will have 30 soundstages, an underwater stage, and a permanent set of a New York City street.
In announcing the Sony Pictures deal, the Chinese company vowed to increase China’s influence. In a statement, Dalian Wanda said it would “strive to highlight the China element in the films in which it invests.” “The alliance will help strengthen Wanda’s power to influence the global film industry, and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment,” the company said.
The owner and founder of Dalian Wanda, Wang Jianlin, has been plain about his desire to expand China’s global media influence. Wang, who is China’s richest man, said in a Chinese television interview in August that he would like to “change the world where rules are set by foreigners.”
As the owner of a nascent theme park chain, Wang also sparred with Disney, which opened its first park in mainland China in June. “They shouldn’t have entered China. We have a [saying]: one tiger is no match for a pack of wolves. Shanghai has one Disney, while Wanda, across the nation, will open 15 to 20,” Wang said, according to Fortune. “Disneyland is fully built on American culture. We place importance on local culture.”
Wang’s statements about expanding soft power are likely an appeal to the Chinese government, which has crafted an explicit policy to export Chinese cultural content and increase the country’s soft power. On Jan, 1, 2014, China’s president, Xi Jinping, published an article in the state newspaper People’s Daily saying the country needed to promote its soft power and build its image abroad.