China attacks pop culture to ‘control’ youth


Boot camp-style TV shows inspired by Japanese and Korean pop culture and celebrity gossip have mushroomed in China over the past decade.

BEIJING: From reality TV to online games and even pop fandom, Chinese leaders have launched a crackdown on youth culture in what experts say is an attempt to strengthen “ideological control.”

In a series of sweeping measures, Beijing has decided to verify what it sees as the excesses of modern entertainment and urged social media platforms to promote patriotic content.

Authorities say they are targeting unhealthy values ​​and “anomalous aesthetics,” but the measures are aimed at checking outside influences and quelling any resistance to the Communist Party, analysts say.

The changes represent a “very concerted effort to strengthen ideological control,” Cara Wallis, media studies specialist at Texas A&M University, told AFP.

Colorful and often extravagant entertainment formats have mushroomed in China over the past decade, including bootcamp-style TV shows inspired by Japanese and Korean pop culture and celebrity gossip.

Along the way, it has also grown into the world’s largest video game market.

Regulators – alarmed at what they see as decadence and degenerate morality – want to curb the entertainment and gaming industries.

They made an example of movie stars going overboard, banned reality TV shows, and ordered broadcasters to stop portraying “sissy” men and “vulgar influencers.”

They also put daily limits on the time children spend playing video games.

Authorities are threatened by the allure of entertainment obsessions which “allow an alternative to the (Communist) Party to provide spiritual or ideological advice” to Chinese youth, Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China, told AFP. Institute.

– “Soft cowards” –

As tensions with the West mounted, China also pushed a nationalist and militaristic narrative at home, including a vision of harsh masculinity as seen in blockbuster action films such as “Wolf Warrior.” .

President Xi Jinping this month warned young Communist Party officials that they should “never be cowardly cowards.”

Regulators and state media have expressed concern over what they see as unsavory foreign influences on young Chinese men.

Last week, the party-run tabloid Global Times suggested that the East Asian trend of “effeminate” male celebrities had its roots in a CIA plot to weaken Japanese men after World War II.

“There is a fear for the future prosperity of the nation, which is associated with the quality of the younger generation,” said Altman Peng, media and gender researcher at Newcastle University.

And as Beijing encourages more births to fight a looming population crisis, Peng told AFP the measures are also an effort to show future parents that it is “safe for them to raise their children.” in China.

The quality of youth, the Party determined, is threatened by the entertainment and culture consumed by Chinese youth.

Controlling what young Chinese people see, hear and read has long been the policy, with strict internet censorship and crackdowns in recent years against men wearing earrings, tattoos or hip lyrics. hop “vulgar”.

Now that control is extended to what young Chinese play as well.

Regulators have ordered China’s major game companies to curb “unhealthy trends,” and hundreds of companies have consequently pledged not to post content that promotes the “cult of money” or “politically. detrimental ”.

The Party offers a very different role model for children – President Xi himself, whose political thought has been introduced this term to elementary school students.

– ‘My own capacity to judge’ –

Analysts said Beijing’s actions were also driven by a desire to curb what it sees as problematic social trends emerging from decades of runaway economic growth and rampant consumerism.

Tech companies were forced in August to limit children’s online play time to just three hours per week during school periods, as concerns grew about young people spending too long hunching over screens.

Pop superfans – or stans – have become the latest targets of repression.

China’s cyberspace authority in June accused fan groups of “negatively affecting the physical and mental health of minors,” pointing to extravagant spending by fans to support their idols.

Those affected by the measures include Chinese fans of South Korean superstars BTS, after a group funded a special livery on a passenger jet to mark a group member’s birthday.

But Chinese youth are getting around the new rules, including buying adult gaming accounts to get around curfews.

And some, like 21-year-old reality fan Su, consider the rules to be excessive.

“I’m already an adult and I have my own ability to judge,” she said, giving only her last name.

“This type of single regulation is not conducive to the development of diversity.”


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