As Beijing Takes Control, Chinese Tech Companies Lose Jobs and Hope

The video platform that Mr. Zhao, iQiyi, had an extraordinary quarter, losing about $ 268 million. Its share price fell 85 percent from its peak in 2021, reflecting investors’ concerns that the company, once aspiring to become China’s Netflix, would lack a show that could attract more subscribers and advertisers.

“The biggest problem for our industry is the acute shortage of material supplies,” Gong Yu, iQiyi’s chief executive, told analysts in November. He blamed, in part, the slow approval of sensors. IQiyi did not respond to requests for comment.

(Mr Zhao confirmed the details in his social media account, but declined to comment further.)

Many film, TV and streaming projects have been canceled or killed due to concerns about increasingly harsh and unpredictable censorship, industry insiders said.

Lillian Lee, a writer in Beijing, said the studio, which works with Tencent and iQiyi, approached her last year to create a streaming series based on one of her history novels. A few weeks later, both companies told her they had decided not to proceed because there was little hope of getting censor approval for the history series. She said she has received far fewer collaboration requests from content providers in 2021.

Chinese content makers always joke that they dance with backdrops, meaning they try to satisfy the censors while attracting their audience. So far it is clear that no matter the creative concessions, there is no guarantee that their projects will see the light of day.

One of the most anticipated movies for the 2021 Christmas season had to change its name from “Moses on the Plane” to “Fire on the Plane”, probably because of its Christian context. Then four days before its release, the production team said that it had been postponed without giving any explanation.

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