China tells broadcasters to shun artists with ‘incorrect political positions’ and effeminate styles

File: A television broadcast shows a Chinese talk show programme beneath a photo of Xi Jinping in western China   (AP)
File: A television broadcast shows a Chinese talk show programme beneath a photo of Xi Jinping in western China (AP)

China’s government is doubling down on its goal of shaping the country into having a more patriotic atmosphere by incorporating several sharp policy points that severely crack down on “effeminate” culture and nudge towards glorifying more masculine portrayals in its entertainment industries.

Pressing for a more patriotic output, China asked broadcasters to shun artists with “incorrect political positions” and “effeminate” styles, signalling even greater government oversight of its entertainment industries.

The move to establish more control over the entertainment industry comes amid several scandals surrounding celebrities involved in tax evasion and sexual assault.

The Chinese government has wide-ranging censorship powers that rest in the hands of the communist authorities, covering everything the party perceives as a violation of core socialist values. The government had earlier issued harsh proclamations on video games, movies and music.

These new guidelines were published on Thursday by two government ministries, a party agency and an industry association.

The ministry-level National Radio Television Administration (NRTA) declared in a notice that it would remove any “unhealthy” content in cultural programmes, strengthen regulation of stars’ salaries and punish tax evaders.

The guidelines push for moral and social responsibility and urged to carefully control the selection of actors and guests under the criteria of “political literacy” and “moral conduct”. They also said performers should be encouraged to participate in public welfare programmes and assume social responsibilities.

Programmes showing “effeminate” behaviour and content deemed “warped” must be stopped, said the notice. Shows on scandals, ostentatious wealth and “vulgar” internet celebrities should be curbed too.

Content that promotes unhealthy fan culture and programmes with voting segments must also come under strict control to discourage fans from spending money on voting.

Separate notices issued on Thursday by China’s ministry of culture and tourism and the China Association of Performing Arts asked artists who live stream content to undergo periodic training on professional ethics.

Contracts of actors and performers who “lack moral discipline” must be terminated, the notice read.

State-run media stepped up its attacks on the entertainment industry as well, issuing scathing criticism against the so-called “effeminate” culture and male stars who use heavy makeup and project “feminine” images.

An opinion piece published in state-run Guangming Daily suggested it was the role of broadcasters to urge Chinese boys to become more “manly”.

The piece said when “effeminate” stars portrayed patriotic characters fighting wars against the Japanese – a popular backdrop for the country’s movies and TV shows – they end up making these “heroic” characters appear to be childish.

The new guidelines have come under criticism from some Chinese social media users. “Actually aesthetics should be diverse,” read a comment on the Twitter-like site Weibo, with over 20,000 likes.

“Isn’t this a kind of discrimination?” read another comment.

In the last two months, Chinese celebrities have attended courses arranged by the government to learn about the Communist Party and worked on “self-criticism”.

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