In one, the character Randy Marsh flies to China hoping to expand his marijuana business there, only to be arrested at the airport. In a work camp, he meets Winnie the Pooh, who, the show explains, was banned after Chinese social media users pointed out his resemblance to Mr. Xi. (The Pooh censorship is real, and reporting on it got John Oliver censored last year.)
Meanwhile in Colorado, the South Park children form a band, and a manager wants to make a biopic about them — but insists that their life story be told in a way that will be acceptable to Chinese censors, so they don’t lose access to the market. He instructs the boys to cut references to the Dalai Lama (seen by the Chinese government as a separatist), organ transplants (China has been accused of harvesting prisoners’ organs) and homosexuality (nothing is wrong with that subject “unless you want to make money in China,” he says).
Eventually the boys tire of the ordeal. “I want to be proud of who we are, guys, and anyone who would betray their ideals just to make money in China isn’t worth a lick of spit,” says one of them, Stan.
(The full episode is available online here, for those with a high tolerance for profanity.)
The N.B.A. is hardly the first international business to make concessions to China’s political sensitivities as it seeks access to its lucrative market, or to forcefully apologize after running afoul of them. Movie studios, especially, have worked to ensure that their scripts aren’t at odds with state censors, lest they lose billions in potential business.
Disney, for one, earned $858 million for “Avengers: Endgame” in the United States and an additional $614 million from China. Moviegoers in China bought an estimated $8.87 billion in movie tickets last year, according to box office analysts.
The “South Park” episode mocked Disney by turning a Mickey Mouse look-alike into a craven profit seeker. On his flight to China, Randy Marsh was surrounded by characters from “Avengers” and “Star Wars,” along with N.B.A. players.