- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The movie “Top Gun: Maverick” was accused three years ago of kowtowing to China after a preview clip showed the Taiwanese flag missing from Tom Cruise’s jacket, but now the flag is back.

Photos from the weekend blockbuster posted online showed that the leather bomber jacket worn by Mr. Cruise’s character in the classic 1986 film once again sports the flags of Taiwan and Japan, both of which had been replaced in the 2019 preview with “nonsensical symbols.”

“As the opening credits scene of the film commences, Maverick can be seen examining his jacket in his old locker as he slowly puts it on,” said the Taiwan News. “The original version of the naval patch with the Taiwan and Japan flags is clearly visible.”

Paramount Pictures was strafed three years ago for scrapping the flag, fueling speculation that the change was made to appease the Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings, one of the film’s financial partners.

In late 2019 however, Tencent withdrew from the $170 million project over concerns that the movie’s unabashedly pro-U.S. military message would run afoul of the Chinese Communist Party, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The reappearance of the “Far East Cruise” patch, which commemorates the USS Galveston’s 1963-64 tour of duty with the 7th Fleet off Japan and Taiwan, prompted fist-pumps from fans of Taiwan and foes of Chinese censorship.

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“A huge U turn by the studio which initially whitewashed the Taiwan flag from his jacket,” tweeted screenwriter Jingan Yang. “This just CONFIRMS Hollywood is no longer wanting to pander to China. Welcome to a new and wonderful era. Welcome back cinema.”

The poke in the eye to Beijing comes with Hollywood studios under increasing criticism for tailoring their entertainment to pass muster with Chinese censors in exchange for access to the world’s largest theatrical audience.

Ian Easton, author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat,” called the studio’s split with Tencent “great news.”

“After a brush with anti-American censorship, Top Gun 2 shed its ties to China’s government and won its soul back,” tweeted Mr. Easton, senior director of the Project 2049 Institute. “How many other American movies have sacrificed their values and principles at the altar of Chinese investment?”

The sequel broke a Memorial Day four-day weekend box-office domestic record by raking in $156 million, which topped the $153 million earned by Disney’s 2007 “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

The missing flag in the 2019 preview had touched off an outcry on the right.

The Heritage Foundationresponded with a short video entitled, “Top Gun Maverick and How China is Taking Over Hollywood.”

“Hollywood is relying more and more on Chinese markets to make profits,” Heritage noted. “That means our films are being written with China in mind. In order for a movie to be played in China the script must be approved in advance and in doing so American audiences are being submitted to censorship.”

In other words, “Cruise’s Jacket is just another example of how China influences the movies we see,” said Heritage.

Solomon Yue, a Republican National Committee member representing Oregon, said that he would have boycotted the movie if the Taiwan flag had been deleted.

“We can’t allow the Chinese Communist Party to buy Hollywood and dictate what we Americans should watch in our movies,” Mr. Yue said. “I am glad that Paramount stood up to Chinese censorship in America.”

The movie has not yet been released in China.

Meanwhile in Taiwan, one cinema is planning to offer limited edition versions of the jacket for $1,449, the Taiwan News reported.

The newspaper listed comments from “Chinese internet users” pooh-poohing the film, including, “You won’t make money off of us by showing it, we can just watch pirated copies.”

Another said: “Brother Tom, the Chinese market won’t have anything to do with you in the future.”

The movie features the exploits of Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he returns after 36 years to the U.S. Naval Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, better known as Top Gun.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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