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China's richest man, Hollywood investor Wang Jianlin warns Trump against trade war

China’s richest man, Hollywood investor Wang Jianlin, warned Donald Trump today against dragging the entertainment industry into a trade war — saying his country’s millions of movie-lovers are key to the future of cinema.

The Chinese billionaire joined a chorus of concern from international business chiefs gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week over the protectionist leanings of the US president-elect, who takes office Friday. Wang, whose Wanda conglomerate owns a US cinema chain, a Hollywood production company and the firm that runs the Golden Globe awards, said America would be the bigger loser if the entertainment sector fell victim to a trade war.

“The main growth market of English-language films out of the US is actually China, not anywhere else,” Wang told an audience in Davos, noting that China had the most movie screens in the world with 15,000 added in the past year alone. “If China were to retaliate, it would be bad for both parties so I don’t wish to see that scenario materialising.” Chinese President Xi Jinping has led calls in Davos this week for an open global economy as Trump prepares to take power.

“No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war,” Xi said in a keynote speech yesterday as he paid his first visit to the World Economic Forum.Wang warned last month that the jobs of 20,000 people employed by Wanda companies in the US would be on the line if the Trump administration mishandled Chinese investment. The 62-year-old acknowledged US political concerns over his acquisitions, which include the USD 2.6 billion purchase of cinema chain AMC in 2012 and Legendary Entertainment, the company behind the “Batman” trilogy, for $3.5 billion last year.

Several US lawmakers have urged the government to examine the national security implications of such investments in Hollywood, if such Chinese “soft power” is allowed to take root. But Wang, whose property-to-entertainment empire also includes a 20-percent stake in the Atletico Madrid football team, said the US could only gain from closer cooperation with China’s booming cinema sector.

Both sides would benefit from more co-productions between US and Chinese companies, as these are exempt from Beijing’s tight limits on the screening of foreign blockbusters, he argued.

Only 34 foreign films are allowed cinema releases in China each year, limiting Hollywood studios’ ability to cash in, but “there’s no limit” on co-productions, Wang pointed out.