Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-chairman for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, heaped praise on China in an interview with Chinese state television, saying "doors opened" for his movie studio in the communist regime after he learned "the China way."
Katzenberg, the co-founder of DreamWorks, said in a 2017 interview with CGTN America, a subsidiary of the CCP’s propaganda department, that business in China had proved "extremely rewarding." He praised China’s technological innovation as "way ahead" of other countries, and downplayed concerns about China’s reputation for censoring American movies.
Katzenberg’s friendly relationship with China could present a political liability for Biden, who has come under scrutiny for failing to stand up to Beijing and for his son Hunter’s dealings there. National security officials have warned that the Chinese government increasingly tries to influence American foreign policy through business leaders and other influencers outside government.
Biden may have had a hand in opening doors for Katzenberg in China. In 2012, the New York Times reported that then-Vice President Biden negotiated with Chinese president Xi Jinping to secure a deal that would open the Chinese market to more American films. Katzenberg, who attended a State Department event with Biden and Xi around the time the deal was sealed, called it an "honor for us and a huge opportunity" to have more access to China. One of Katzenberg’s earliest business partners was Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Communist Party leader and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Katzenberg’s status in China was on display at a 2015 White House dinner, when the Hollywood mogul was seated at the head table with Xi and a few other American executives.
Katzenberg, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, is the only Biden co-chairman from the private sector. Sens. Chris Coons (Del.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Reps. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), Veronica Escobar (Tex.), and Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.) will serve in the role.
Katzenberg has faced some scrutiny over the years for his China ties. The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated whether DreamWorks, which Katzenberg founded in 1994, paid bribes to Chinese officials to expand its business. One of Katzenberg’s first projects in China was a film called Tibet Code, which came under fire because it put forth a pro-Beijing view of the longstanding feud between Tibet and China.
Asked in his CGTN interview about China’s well-earned reputation for censoring Western films, Katzenberg said he "was never restricted" by Chinese authorities.
"I’ve never been censored on anything that I have done. Maybe that’s the choices of the kinds of things and the type of content that I make in that there wasn’t any sensitivity around it," he said.
It’s not that China’s censors have given Katzenberg a free pass. The New York Times reported in 2013 that Chinese officials visited DreamWorks’s Los Angeles headquarters to sign off on the studio’s "Kung Fu Panda 3."
"The story line, production art and other creative elements have met their approval," the Times reported of China’s visit to DreamWorks.
The Biden campaign and Katzenberg did not respond to requests for comment.