Vietnam prohibits the Barbie film for featuring a disputed “South China Sea map.”

Vietnam has prohibited the release of an upcoming Barbie movie due to a scene that includes a map showcasing disputed Chinese territorial assertions in the “South China Sea.” Alongside several other nations, Vietnam contests China’s assertion of ownership over nearly the entire “South China Sea.” The film, centred around the renowned doll, has already gained significant attention on social media and is scheduled to premiere in theatres on July 21.

The specific scene depicting the controversial image of China’s “nine-dash line,” which is utilised in Chinese maps to represent territorial claims in the “South China Sea,” remains unclear. China has been constructing military installations on artificial islands within the region for several years and frequently conducts naval patrols to reinforce its territorial claims. In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled against China’s claims in the “South China Sea,” but China disregarded the judgement.

Warner Bros, the film studio behind Barbie, is not the only production to face a ban in Vietnam for featuring the nine-dash line. In 2019, the DreamWorks animated film Abominable was also pulled for the same reason, and three years later, the Sony action movie Uncharted faced a similar fate. The Department of Cinema, a governmental organisation responsible for licencing and censoring foreign films, was responsible for enforcing the ban.

Vietnamese authorities have previously taken action against films with content deemed sensitive or politically contentious. In a similar vein, the Australian spy drama Pine Gap was removed from the Vietnamese market by Netflix two years ago after authorities lodged a complaint.

The “South China Sea” is a hotbed of territorial disputes, with China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei all asserting competing claims. These disputes revolve around issues such as fishing rights, control of strategically important islands, and access to natural resources. The tensions in the region have significant geopolitical implications and have led to an increased military presence and diplomatic maneuvering by the countries involved.