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Chinese Billionaire Takes On Disney With His Own Theme Parks


Next month, Disney will open a $5 billion theme park in Shanghai. But a Chinese billionaire says his parks will leave Disney in the dust. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Fourteen years ago, Wang Jianlin and his company Wanda began building huge developments, complete with apartments, shopping malls and cinemas in cities across China. But China's real estate market has been cooling, so Wang is planning to build dozens of theme parks to take on Disney nationwide.


WANG JIANLIN: (Speaking in Chinese)

KUHN: "We will make Disney unprofitable in China within the next decade or two," Wang predicted in an interview on Chinese state television on Sunday. Wang says he's betting the Chinese cultural themes at his parks will outdraw Mickey Mouse and Snow White, that Shanghai's weather is too rainy in summer and cold in winter for Disney's outdoor attractions and that Disney's building costs will result in tickets that are too pricey for local customers.


WANG JIANLIN: (Speaking in Chinese)

KUHN: "Disney really shouldn't have come to China," Wang said drawing applause from the studio audience. "Our strategy is based on the saying, one tiger is no match for a pack of wolves." Wang Jianlin is a 61-year-old Communist Party member with a fortune estimated at $31.5 billion. He spent some of those billions to purchase AMC's movie theater chain and Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment.

His ambitions dovetail with China's policies to build up its media and entertainment companies in order to portray China in a favorable light. He plans to do this with blockbusters such as Great Wall, a 3D action flick starring Matt Damon and Hong Kong actor Any Lau. With a budget of $135 million, it'll be the most expensive movie ever shot entirely in China. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.


DONNY OSMOND: (Singing as Captain Li Shang) Let's get down to business to defeat the Huns. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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