Bond breaks through Bamboo Curtain

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The Independent Culture

James Bond has beaten many a dastardly foe and evil genius in his long career, but the suave British secret agent has never successfully breached the Bamboo Curtain. Until this month, when Casino Royale makes its Chinese debut, 45 years after 007 began plying his deadly trade on the silver screen.

Getting Bond on to Chinese screens has been a tough call, as 007's famed fondness for espionage in other jurisdictions or "third countries" has meant he has continually fallen foul of China's beady-eyed censors.

On top of this, Bond's "license to kill," maverick attitude, fondness for violence and sexual situations are anathema to the kinds of values China likes to embrace in its films. But times are changing, and Casino Royale has been given the go-ahead.

"The censors took some time to approve it and they approved it with no cuts," said Li Chow, Sony Pictures' general manager in China.

"Everyone has seen James Bond movies on pirated DVDs, so expectations are high. The fact it's the first Bond makes it much more important - after 45 years, 21 films, this is, finally, the first one in China," said Mr Chow.

With his fast cars, flashy watches and razor-sharp suits, Bond was a true icon of capitalism, but these days, the lifestyle he follows is the one most young men in China want.

"Chinese people like Bond because they like everything he represents - fast cars, beautiful women. He's cool," said Mr Chow.

The fact that so many of Bond's escapades took place during the Cold War has made it difficult for officials in Communist China to embrace a man who is, in effect, an enemy spy.

The censors were reportedly won over by the absence of Cold War references in the film, and the studio emphasised the fact that the film is about fighting a common enemy - the terrorist.

The new Bond, Daniel Craig, his co-star, Eva Green, and director, Martin Campbell, will be among the Bond team attending the premiere on 29 January in Beijing and the following night in Shanghai. Both events promise to be glittering occasions. The distributors are also expecting it to be the biggest foreign film in China this year, and are sending an unprecedented number of prints to cinemas.