Barbie movie banned in Vietnam over 'offensive' South China Sea map

Margo Robbie stars as Barbie in the Barbie film. Credit: AP

The Barbie film has been banned in Vietnam over a scene which shows a map of China's claimed territory in the South China Sea, local media reports.

Barbie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, was originally due to be in Vietnam cinemas on July 21, the same date as in the United Kingdom, according to state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.

However a scene in the film reportedly shows a map with a u-shaped “nine-dash line,” which China uses to illustrate its claims over vast areas of the South China Sea.

But this includes swathes of what Vietnam considers its continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.

The controversial "nine-dash line" was not accepted in an international arbitration ruling by a court in The Hague in 2016 but China still refuses to recognise this.

A globe shows China's "nine-dash line" territory claims over the islands on the South China Sea. Credit: AP

“We do not grant license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line,” the paper reported, citing Vi Kien Thanh, head of the department of cinema, a government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films.

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barbie is the latest movie to be banned in Vietnam for depicting China’s controversial nine-dash line, CNN reports.

In 2019, the Vietnamese government pulled DreamWorks’ animated film Abominable, and last year it banned Sony’s action movie Unchartered for the same reason.

Netflix also removed an Australian spy drama, Pine Gap, in 2021.

For a long time Vietnam and China have had overlapping territorial claims to a potentially energy-rich stretch in the South China Sea.

The southeast Asian country has repeatedly accused Chinese vessels of violating its sovereignty.

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