Vietnam has banned the soon-to-be-released Barbie film because it includes a map depicting China’s “nine-dash line” claim over the South China Sea.
The film, inspired by the plastic doll and starring Australian actress Margot Robbie, was due to start screening in Vietnamese cinemas on July 21, the same day as its release in the United States.
Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Vietnam Cinema Department, confirmed the ban to the state-run Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday, referencing the map’s appearance in certain scenes.
Beijing bases its claim to almost the entire South China Sea on the nine-dash line, a U-shaped line taking in nearly all of the resource-rich waters, which an international court found in 2016 to have no legal basis.
Vietnam also claims part of the sea along with other littoral states including the Philippines, which brought the court action, and Malaysia.
It is not the first time Hanoi has taken action against films over China’s expansive claim. Last year, it banned the Tom Holland film Uncharted and in 2019, the animated movie Abominable was pulled from screens after the discovery of scenes showing the map.
Barbie is one of this year’s most eagerly anticipated films and also stars Ryan Gosling as Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. It is directed by Greta Gerwig.
China has long used the nine-dash line to illustrate its claims over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, which stretches far further than the standard 200-mile (roughly 320-kilometer) exclusive economic exclusion zone from the coastline that applies in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China is a UNCLOS signatory but rejects some of the accord’s provisions.
The Chinese line brushes up close to the coastline of several Asian countries including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. China bases this on its claim to the series of disputed islands roughly in the center of the sea.