Xi’s U.K. Visit Yields Deals in Entertainment and Media

Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister drink a toast to increased Sino-U.K. trade.

Xi Jinping and David Cameron drink a toast to increased Sino-U.K. trade. (Creative Commons/Flickr)

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United Kingdom ushers in a widely heralded “golden age”  in relations between the two countries, and may also represent a watershed for China’s global soft-power ambitions.

Creativity and cultural exchange are “at the heart of developments” in the strengthening of the U.K.-China relationship, according to the British Council.  And while the Chinese Communist Party has been issuing new directives to implement Xi’s vision of patriotic and morally upstanding arts and culture back home, in London Xi praised British culture, citing Shakespeare as an inspiration and expressing a liking for the contemporary TV series “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock.”

British entertainment was a highlight of the recent reception for Xi hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Lancaster House. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts was heavily involved, with Prince William (who also happens to be president of BAFTA) presiding over a showcase that featured James Bond films and the television series “Dr. Who” and “Poldark.”

On the sidelines, a slew of deals have been brewing, with the timing of their announcements carefully scheduled to coincide with Xi’s visit for maximum publicity. It’s a Hollywood-style lesson that was not realized during Xi’s trip to the United States last month, which, despite the presence of major media titans at Xi’s White House state dinner, saw no major entertainment deals announced between American and Chinese companies.

And while media and entertainment deals represent a small fraction of the estimated 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in Chinese investment flowing into the United Kingdom from agreements signed around the time of the visit, they show that there is serious money and interest, as well as plenty of encouragement from governments on both sides.

Below, a round-up of the entertainment-related deals announced over the past few days:

Merlin Entertainments and China Media Capital: Announced a $300 million deal to open a Shanghai Legoland theme park, with the potential for additional theme parks from Merlin.

BBC and Shanghai Media Group: Announced co-production of Earth: One Amazing Day, the first feature to be made under the U.K.-China co-production treaty that was signed  last year, and the planned theatrical release of the BBC’s “Sherlock” special in China.  In a separate deal, the BBC and SMG announced co-production of “Coast: China,” a six-part documentary television series.

BBC and CCTV: Announced co-production of BBC’s “The Hunt” for Chinese television.

London Resort Company Holdings and Sinofortone: Announced a 100 million pound investment by the Chinese infrastructure and construction company in the London Paramount Entertainment Resort in Kent, scheduled to open in 2021. 

York University and China Culture Investment Group: Announced a 200 million pound investment to develop new facilities and train Chinese students in television production at York.