Despite its absence, the film has generated spirited debate on the Chinese internet. Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Communist Party, published commentary that cited the racist origin of the character.
Readers of Shang-Chi comic books in the 1970s saw Asian faces colored in unnatural oranges and yellows. They saw the main character shirtless and shoeless, spouting “fortune-cookie platitudes in stilted English,” The New York Times noted recently. And then there was Shang-Chi’s father in the comics: He was named Fu Manchu and caricatured as a power-hungry Asian man, an image that harks back to the stereotypes first pressed upon Asian immigrants a century ago.
“How can Chinese people be insulted like this,” the Global Times commentary asked, “while at the same time we let you take our money?”
Some critics in China have also pointed to Mr. Liu’s previous comments about China. One nationalist account on Weibo, the popular social media platform, posted several screenshots from a previous interview with Mr. Liu in which he talked about how his parents left “Third World” China where people “were dying of starvation.” (The video is no longer online. A spokeswoman for Disney declined to comment on the remarks.)
Mr. Liu has been critical of China before. In 2016, when he was starring in the television show “Kim’s Convenience,” he wrote on Twitter, “I think countries that try to censor and cover up dissenting ideas rather than face them and deal with them are out of touch with reality.” When a Twitter user replied, “sounds like America,” Mr. Liu responded: “I was referring to Chinese gov’t censorship. It’s really immature and out of touch.”