Some Marvel fans may recall a bit of a dust up when 2013's Iron Man 3 was preparing to be released as it was revealed ahead of time that exclusive footage would be included in the film's Chinese release, scenes Marvel fans in the rest of the world wouldn't get to see. In the end these moments were inconsequential to the rest of the movie, but apparently there were potentially other plans that were pitched to make the film appeal to Chinese audiences (and the Chinese government) even more, according to one source at least who had some involvement in the film.
Former president of DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group (a China based company that worked on other films like Looper and Bloodshot) Chris Fenton has written a new book about his time with the company. Titled Feeding The Dragon, the text recounts his time getting films like these played in China, and in it he includes details of suggestions he made to Marvel Studios to potentially appeal to the Middle Kingdom even more.
In the book (H/T Bleeding Cool), Fenton reveals a pitch he made to the studio about the character that became Ty Simpkins' Harley Keener. At the time Fenton had a feeling that Xi Jinping would eventually rise to the position of president in China (to his credit, he was right), and as such he wanted to appeal to the politician by modeling the character after him. Xi Jinping apparently had spent some time in the United States on an exchange program with a family in Iowa, so Fenton thought making the young child who befriends Tony Stark in rural America a Chinese exchange student would grant them favor with China. Marvel disagreed.
"The room was silent—crickets. No reaction whatsoever," the book reads. After explaining the idea further, Marvel's Louis D'Esposito apparently said "That feels like an infomercial for China." Fenton went on to talk about the reasons it would be beneficial for Marvel's relationship with China, but it fell on deaf ears.
"Your Chinese-kid idea is not happening," D'Esposito said at a follow-up meeting apparently. "Because we're not interested in having the sidekick from Indiana Jones in Iron Man 3...It just feels 'too much' and heavy-handed, if you know what I mean."
Kevin Feige added, "We need to think about how that would look. And, in particular, we need to stay true to our IP, its mythology, and the hardcore fans that are so important to all things Marvel."
From there apparently came the idea for Wang Xueqi's Dr. Wu and the sequence that features Fan Bingbing. The plan seemingly worked too as Iron Man 3 became the second highest grossing film of 2013 in China and started Marvel's continued march of success in the country.