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China: when the state decides to take back its youth and its entertainment



If I exist / My life is to be a fan / It is to be a fan / Without respite, day and night“: this excerpt from the song Fan by Pascal Obispo wouldn’t be spending these days in China. As part of the recovery of its youth, the Chinese state has decided to ban since September the “irrational star hunt“That is, online celebrity rankings, fundraisers and other tools used by Chinese fans to keep their idols trending on social media.

16-year-old Beijing high school student Chen Zhichu used to spend 30 minutes a day like millions of other Chinese fans promoting her favorite actor online, before the practice came under the government’s radar. “unhealthy values“.

I used to push up posts (from actor Xiao Zhan) on his Weibo fan forum and purchase the products he was promoting“, she says.”It was pretty exhausting trying to keep him on top of the trends every day.“, she admits.

Fans are fueling the lucrative idol economy, which state media predicted to be 140 billion yuan (€ 18.7 billion) by 2022. Fan culture is an industry that exploits minors and relies on artificially inflated social media engagement, according to its critics. The ruling Communist Party feels threatened by a show business “which offers an alternative to its ideological orientation“, observes sinologist Steve Tsang of SOAS University in London.

But Communist authorities are also worried about idols for another reason: their ability to mobilize armies of fans in an instant, often dominating social media for days on end. However, in the West, we remember, for example, how K-Pop fans had succeeded, in June 2020, in “sabotaging” a Donald Trump meeting by massively reserving places they did not have. intention to honor. “This is the start of a mass movement and this is what the government does not want “, believes a professor of social sciences at a Chinese university who does not wish to be named.

In recent months, multiple crackdowns have swept across the tech, education and showbiz industries. The communist regime has drastically limited the time minors can devote to video games in the name of public health.

Also in the viewfinder, the contents “vulgar“broadcast on the small screen and social networks, called to focus instead on values”patriotic“. Gone are the reality shows inspired by Japanese or South Korean pop culture, certain telecrochets … and especially the stars of the song with the allure too effeminate.

China’s broadcasting regulator last month banned artists with “failing morality“and”incorrect political views“, as well as what he called the”effeminate men“- an androgynous aesthetic popularized by Korean boybands and imitated by Chinese idols like Xiao Zhan.

Experts see it as a sign of Beijing’s growing unease with other forms of masculinity, at a time of falling birth rates and rising nationalism.

The new measures also aim to lessen the influence of misguided celebrities on young people and to train a youth more in tune with the traditional socialist and nationalist values ​​defended by President Xi Jinping since he came to power nine years ago.

This is a deliberate policy intended to strengthen the ideological control of the population“, observes Cara Willis, media specialist at Texas A&M University.



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