Marvel's Shang-Chi and Eternals movies are having their release dates in China called into question. That doubt stems from a report on China's Movie Channel CCTV6, which did a feature on the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 slate of films. According to reports from those who saw the report, the CCTV6 discussed ten upcoming MCU projects - but did not mention either Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, or Eternals. That omission is being attributed to possible plans for China to censor both Marvel films from release in the region. CCTV6 is controlled by the Chinese propaganda department, which regulates the films that do/do not get released.
As Variety reports:
In a report on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four films, the CCTV6 China Movie Channel aired a list of the U.S. release dates for eight of the ten scheduled titles, but conspicuously left out “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi.” After “Black Widow,” which hits the U.S. July 9, they are the next two MCU films in the line-up, releasing in North America on Sept. 3 and Nov. 5, respectively.
The omission might seem small, but its significance lies in its provenance: the channel is under the jurisdiction of China’s powerful propaganda department, which has the final word on film approvals.
China is a notoriously fickle (if not lucrative) market that the US entertainment industry has been desperately trying to crack in the last decade or so. In fact, the often dichotomous relationship between US companies with moral and/or family-friendly images (like Disney), and the often controversial authoritarian tendencies of the Chinese government, has become an increasingly hot topic of debate. South Park brought the issue to a mainstream stage with its 2019 episode "Band In China", which went straight at Disney, Marvel, and other studios angling for the Chinese market, amidst all kinds of accusations of human rights violations by the Chinese government.
In recent years, Marvel movies have had to bend in order to stake a claim in the highly valuable Chinese market. Doctor Strange is thought to have recast The Ancient One as Tilda Swinton - in large part because the original Tibetan version of the character from the comics would've upset China. Fox's Deadpool was banned from China for its gratuitous violence, while Logan had to be edited down two appease Chinese censors.
It's not hard to imagine that something about Eternals' diverse cast, director, or fantastical story about how humanity and the world were shaped by super-beings rubbing the Chinese government the wrong way. The fact that Shang-Chi (Marvel's first Asian-led blockbuster) may not open in China is a much bigger problem. It will be interesting to see if Marvel Studios makes moves to secure that market.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released on September 3rd; Eternals arrives on November 5th.