China steps up repression against youth “decadence”

Boot camp-style TV shows inspired by Japanese and Korean pop culture and celebrity gossip have mushroomed in China over the past decade JADE GAO AFP / File

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 aim to check for outside influences and quell 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 Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Colorful and often extravagant entertainment formats have mushroomed in China over the past decade, including boot camp-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.

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.

The party-run tabloid Global Times last week suggested that the East Asian trend of “effeminate” male celebrities had its roots in a Central Intelligence Agency 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 a policy with strict internet censorship and crackdowns in recent years against men wearing earrings, tattoos or hip hop lyrics. “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 therefore pledged not to post content that promotes “the cult of money” or “politically damaging. “.

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

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 hunched over screens.

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