Recent on July 3, 2023, the state media of Vietnam (Tuoi Tre News) reported that the country will be banning the latest upcoming blockbuster produced by Warner brothers, the ‘Barbie’ movie, in advance to a scene displaying a Chinese nine-dash line map that outlines the Chinese sea body territory, which are seen illegal and non-historical in countries located near South China Sea like the Viets.
Quoting on head of the Vietnam Cinema Department Vi Kien Thanh’s words, the ban to license the film, which was originally designated to be screened starting on July 21, 2023, same day as the US, was ordered by the Central Council of Feature Film Evaluation and Classification, as it feature the controversial and offending nine-dash line picture in one of the scene, similar to how American produced film ‘Uncharted’ from 2022, and more other Chinese films in general were banned in past years.
As one of the most anticipated large live-action film coming up this year, the ‘Barbie’ film has caught many people’s attention when it first got announced, directed by Greta Gerwig while casting rising stars like Margot Robbie as the lead, alongside with a diverse ensemble of actors across gender, ethnicity and body types.
The Chinese ‘nine-dash’ lines, which was the major reasoning the Chinese use to claim its authority over a great U-shaped coverage of sea body in the South China Sea, has been seen as illicit and aggressive to many nearby states like Vietnam and Philippine. The line was first inscribed by China back in 1947, originally being 11 dashes over the region, only after 1952 when former leader Mao Zedong make a deal with to handover the gulf of Tonkin to Vietnam, losing 2 brackets and transforming in to the nine-dash line they have nowadays.
Yet the line has remain controversial over the years, including how China have been trying to manipulate historical claims while building artificial island building around borders of the line, being warned by the US as an attempt of militarising the surrounded areas by building naval military stop points, possibly threatening nearby countries’ sea borders security.
Another important factor to mention that might explain why China and the other countries are so sensitive on these regions, perhaps might lies within the resource it possibly carries. Specifically considering that some of the outskirts where scarce fossil resources lies, such as swathes that are considered by both the Viets and the Chinese as theirs, with great amount of oil concessions waiting to be extracted, it is much more understandable why these countries act more sensitive to these images, and take further action to ban it from screening publicly nation-wide.
Eventually the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled in 2016 that the line that covers almost all South China Sea has no historical merit, meaning China’s claim to have the authority over it is false. Yet as we witness China to continue test boundaries and challenge others nearby through different projects, perhaps similar bans like Vietnam’s to Barbie will continue acting in the foreseeable coming future.
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