AFP – From reality TV to online gaming and even pop fandom, China’s leadership has launched a crackdown on youth culture in what experts say is a bid to ramp up “ideological control”.
In a series of sweeping measures, Beijing has moved to check what it considers the excesses of modern entertainment and urged social media platforms to promote patriotic content.
Authorities say they are targeting unhealthy values and “abnormal aesthetics”, but the moves are a bid to check outside influences and snuff any resistance to the Communist Party, analysts say.
The changes represent a “very concerted effort at ramping up of ideological control,” Cara Wallis, a scholar of media studies at Texas A&M University, said.
Colourful and often outlandish entertainment formats have mushroomed in China over the past decade, including boot camp-style talent TV shows inspired by Japanese and Korean pop culture and celebrity gossip.
Along the way, it has also become the largest video games market in the world.
Regulators – alarmed by what they see as decadence and degenerate morals – want to rein in the entertainment and gaming industries.
They have made an example out of movie stars that allegedly stepped out of line, banned reality talent shows and ordered broadcasters to stop featuring “sissy” men and “vulgar influencers”.
They have also imposed daily limits on the time children spend on video games.
Authorities are threatened by the allure of entertainment obsessions that “allow an alternative to exist to the [Communist] Party providing spiritual or ideological guidance” for Chinese youth, Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, said.
As tensions have mounted with the West, China has also pushed a nationalist and militaristic narrative at home, including a vision of tough masculinity as seen in blockbuster action films such as Wolf Warrior.
President Xi Jinping warned young Communist Party officials this month that they should “never be spineless cowards”.
Regulators and state media have expressed anxiety about what they see as unsavoury foreign influences on young Chinese men.
The party-run Global Times tabloid last week suggested the East Asian trend of “effeminate” male celebrities has roots in a CIA plot to weaken Japanese men after World War II.
“There is fear for the future prosperity of the nation, which is associated with the quality of the younger generation,” said Altman Peng, a researcher of media and gender at Newcastle University.
And as Beijing encourages more births to battle a looming population crisis, Peng said these measures are also an effort to show prospective parents that it is “safe for them to raise their children” in China.
The quality of youth, the Party has determined, is being threatened by the entertainment and culture consumed by China’s youth.
Controlling what China’s youth see, hear and read has long been the policy, with strict internet censorship and crackdowns in recent years on men wearing earrings, tattoos or listening to “vulgar” hip hop lyrics.
Now, this control is being expanded to what young Chinese play too.
Regulators have ordered China’s top gaming firms to rein in “unhealthy tendencies” and hundreds of firms have vowed as a result not to publish content that promotes “money worship” or is “politically harmful”.
Analysts said Beijing’s actions are also driven by a desire to rein in what it perceives as problematic social trends emerging from decades of runaway economic growth and rampant consumerism.
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