This article explores the role of non-state actors from the film industry in promoting China’s soft power. Much research on non-state actors has emphasised the Anglophone world, while little research has been undertaken in the context of non-democratic regimes such as China. Therefore, following scholarly reviews on soft power and the role of its key actors, this article analyses China’s approach to soft power, based on semi-structured interviews conducted with film experts to explore the role of non-state actors in generating soft power. The study reveals that although China has consistently privileged state-owned actors over non-state actors, non-state actors have actually played an increasingly important role in disseminating soft power. The article argues that the more powerfully the Chinese authorities emphasise China’s state actors, the less likely it is that China will win hearts and minds — because of China’s domestic political ideology and censorship mechanism in the field.