The Chinese government is keen to build up its “soft power” to compete against the globally dominant cultural exports of the US. But there’s just one problem. After years of trying, China has yet to develop its own popular versions of Mickey Mouse, the Marvel Comics heroes and the other globally-known characters and products that allow Disney to market “Disneyland” as an immersive, universal experience.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has entered the “kill everyone in China” row instigated by a late-night network television skit in the U.S. last month – asking for a more “sincere” apology than those already issued by ABC and show host Jimmy Kimmel. The controversial remark, made by a 6-year-old boy during an unscripted segment meant to satirize the U.S. government shutdown, has sparked protests from the Chinese-American community and calls for the comedian’s resignation.

So China — as in, the People’s Republic of — is really into the Little Mermaid, and not that saccharine Disney cartoon we feed our tumescent American children. The Hans Christian Andersen fairytale is apparently a huge deal in China, so much so that Denmark has been able to establish a strong diplomatic relationship with China almost entirely through the famous bronze Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.

Walt Disney Co. said it would join an initiative to develop China's animation industry, marking the latest push by Hollywood to expand into the world's most populous country.

China’s government has identified animation as a key area for development to boost the country’s global influence, or soft power. The success of DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has sparked wide debate within China about why the country can’t leverage its culture as effectively as Hollywood.

Without the sex, gore and contemporary politics Beijing's censors deplore, animation is family-oriented and easily redubbed, making it safe and both importable and exportable, and thus likely to lead the charge in a trans-Pacific race for soft power – one that Hollywood's currently leading.

In 1941, celebrated animator Walt Disney went on a diplomatic mission to Latin America. The creator of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck became a good will ambassador. The U.S. had not yet joined its allies in war, but feared growing Nazi and Fascist influence in the Americas.

Opened this August, the Kingdom of Dreams is arguably India's most ambitious entertainment complex yet. Combining a retail-and-restaurant complex called Culture Gully, an outdoor stage for productions of the Ramayana and wedding shows, and a palatial 800-seat theater, it's Disneyland meets Bollywood.