China tries to suppress western decadence
- Although People's China has abandoned many aspects of socialism, the new
bourgeoisie there is more nationalist than globalist in its orientation
and is not going to allow China to be a complete doormat for the
imperialists, especially when it comes to contamination of their culture.
The following article, attributed to Wall Street Journal reporters Kathy
Chen and Leslie Chang, appeared on page A25 of the Monday, May 31, 2004
edition of the Arizona Republic.
CHINA TV SHOWS DRAW CRACKDOWN
Officials Are Taking Dim View Of Racy, Violent Programs
Beijing--What's a hip Chinese TV show host to do?
Turning their policing efforts to pop culture, China's propaganda czars
have slapped new restrictions on television show hosts who sport orange-
tinted hair, wear "too little or too weird clothes," or speak in trendy
local dialects or Western slang. The restrictions are part of a rash of
new regulations issued by the State Administration for Radio, Film and
Television aimed at towning down the sex, violence and racy content that are
the hallmark of broadcast media in many places and, increasingly, in China.
The rules, issued April 30, read like a sweeping attack n much of the
social permissiveness that has come to China in the past two decades along
with economic reforms. Officially, Chinese media are all state-owned;
authorities have long regarded the media as the houshe, or throat and tongue,
of the Communist Party. But while Beijing has kept a tight grip over news
content, it has in recent years allowed more leeway to broadcasters,
particularly in non-sensitive areas like entertainment and sports programming.
Broadcasters have come to rely on racy and sometimes violent content to
attract viewers and boost bottom lines.
While industry executives and viewers alike welcome some of the measures as
long overdue--for example, a ban on graphic violence and sex scenes during
prime time--they view others as frivolous, meddlesome or downright
unnecessary. For many Chinese, the genie is out of the bottle, and no
amount of regulation will transport them back to the puritanical mores
that prevailed in the early days of Communist Party rule.
"We're not housewives who go to bed every night before nine," said Stella
Xu, a 26-year-old math teacher who is angry that her favorite U.S. crime
show has been, at least temporarily, canned.
In the southern province of Fujian, the two male hosts of Entertainment
Overturning the Skies, a local program about Chinese and foreign
celebrities, have reverted to black hair in lieu of dyed blond locks,
and one has given up carrying a stuffed mynah bird on his shoulder, said
scriptwriter "Feng", who declined to give his full name. Feng draws the
line when it comes to the show hosts' accent, which resembles those of
Chinese living on nearby Taiwan. Chinese authorities, who claim the island
as a part of China, may view Taiwan's leaders as political foes, but
Chinese youths see Taiwanese as a font of fashion.
"Our program hosts aren't emulating Taiwan tongues when they speak Mandarin;
they've spoken like this since they were born," Feng said.
The publication of the rules highlights the quandry the government faces in
trying to regulate the media sector and help it grow at the same time.
Regulators recently unveiled policies aimed at further opening the industry,
including some content production, to more foreign and private investment.
But the latest rules slap some restrictions on foreign programming. Imports
of historical soap operas and martial-arts programs, many of which are made
in Taiwan or Hong Kong and which are hugely popular in China, cannot
account for more than 25 percent of all imported programming in a given year.
The regulations restrict foreign-produced cartoons to 40 percent of the
total, with the rest reserved for domestically-produced cartoons.
Kenny Bloom, chief executive officer of AsiaVision Ltd., a Beijing-based
production and media-consulting company, said he doesn't see any major
long-term impact on most foreign players.
"All regulations can be relaxed if the quality (of your programming) is
good and your local partner is strong enough," he said with a shrug.
The rules in other parts appear to function as a kitchen sink for all sorts
of continuing political campaigns both large and trivial. They ban,
among other things, egotism, money worship, ostentation, and the promotion
of feudal superstition and pseudoscience in TV programming. The document
calls for programs not to exagerate or celebrate drug use and gambling. It
also lashes out against showing "fights, spitting, littering and foul
One key focus: The prevalance of violence and criminal behavior on police
and crime shows. According to a survey done by CVSC--Sofres Media, a rating
joint venture partly owned by national broadcaster China Central Television,
681 TV serieswere shown on 156 provincial channels from 5 PM to midnight
around the country in 2002. Crime-related series topped the list and were
most popular among audiences, accounting for 14 percent of the shows and 17
percent of total audience ratings. Industry executives say one reason for
the move is official concern that such shows have contributed to a surge
in violent crimes in China, such as the recent case of Ma Jiajue, a Yunnan
province student who killed four of his classmates.
The notice calls for broadcasters to "strictly control the exaggerated
violence, murders and horror content in programming."
It calls for all such shows, including those that show realistic re-enactments
of crimes, to be broadcast only after 11 PM; exemptions require approval
Many indusstry executives predict the impact of the new rules will not be
long lived. One CCTV producer noted that China has long had rules requiring
tasteful attire for TV show hosts, but few have followed them. He said the
latest restrictions are the result of the recent establishment by media
regulators of a new committee to govern TV show hosts, and "they had to do
"I have an acquaintance from Fallujah. He tells me, 'The good thing we have
that you don't in Baghdad is that you do not see any American soldiers on our
streets. We do not allow that in Fallujah.'"
--Hussein al-Musawi, quoted on p. A20, 4/3/04 edition The Arizona Republic