Top Gun: Maverick just had the best box office debut of Tom Cruise’s illustrious acting career. Its success shows once again that Hollywood does not need to pander shamelessly to China to make money.

The film opened to a $124 million domestic gross and a $248 million international gross. And it accomplished that despite not being released in the world's most populous nation, China. China’s Tencent Pictures initially invested in the film, which may explain a trailer in which Taiwanese and Japanese flags had been altered on the jacket worn in the original film by Cruise’s character. But Tencent ended up pulling out of the project, and the Japanese and Taiwanese flags were restored for the theatrical release. This makes it unlikely that the film will be released in China at all.

Top Gun: Maverick has been a smashing success even without pandering to the Chinese Communist Party. The same was true for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which reached $869 million globally without being released in China. It looks like Doctor Strange won’t be getting a China release, like most of Disney’s recent Marvel slate, this time thanks in part to a controversy over a newspaper kiosk that briefly appears in the background of a scene. Marvel hasn’t landed a film in Chinese theaters since 2019.

Doctor Strange, a franchise that whitewashed a Tibetan character to please Chinese censors in 2016, leads the global box office leaderboard so far this year without China. The top film in 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home, also wasn’t released in China after Sony Pictures refused to remove or alter scenes featuring the Statue of Liberty. As China’s censors become more petulant, Hollywood studios that once were so determined to get into the Chinese market are hitting box office records without it.

China’s undue influence over American culture, from Hollywood to sports to legacy media, is something that must be undone. If Hollywood can finally recognize that the Chinese market is not the end-all, be-all and that films can succeed without bowing to Chinese censors, it will go a long way toward releasing the CCP’s grip on American entertainment. It’s a welcome, if overdue, development.