The Government Accountability Office has accepted a request from members of Congress to review the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and determine whether its legal powers have kept pace with the influx of international buyers targeting American companies — particularly the fire hose of Chinese investment in Hollywood.
In a letter dated Sept. 30, GAO managing director Katherine Siggerud wrote that the request from 16 members of Congress was within the scope of the agency’s authority, and it expects to initiate the process in about four months, when qualified staff will be available.
Rep. Robert Pittenger headed a group of 16 members of Congress who wrote an initial letter to the GAO on Sept. 15 asking the body — Congress’ investigative arm — “to determine whether its statutory and administrative authorities have effectively kept pace with the growing scope of foreign acquisitions in strategically important sectors in the U.S.”
The letter singled out Chinese Dalian Wanda Group’s acquisition of Legendary Entertainment and aborted pursuit of Paramount Pictures, as well as its ownership of AMC Theaters and in-process acquisition of Carmike Cinemas as concerning, due to “China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media.”
One question the lawmakers urged the GAO to answer in their letter was “Should the definition of national security be broadened to address concerns about propaganda and control of the media and “soft power” institutions?”
Wanda founder and CEO Wang Jianlin — China’s richest man — has been outspoken about his desire to use entertainment to promote Chinese values abroad, exercising the kind of “soft power” that U.S. studios have successfully used for years. Last month, Wanda formed a strategic alliance with Sony, which the company said it would use to “strive to highlight the China element in the films in which it invests” in a statement. The company is also in talks to acquire Dick Clark Productions for $1 billion.
Wang’s ambition and wallet have clearly got the attention of Hollywood chiefs — and now, Washington.