China is sharpening its pop culture in order to “control” young people

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From reality TV to online games and even pop fandom, China’s leadership has launched an attack on youth culture in what experts say is an attempt to increase “ideological control”.

In a series of sweeping measures, Beijing has moved to control what it considers to be surplus modern entertainment and urged social media to market patriotic content.

The changes represent a “very concerted effort to increase ideological control,” Cara Wallis, a media studies researcher at Texas A&M University, told AFP.

Along the way, it has also become the largest video game market in the world.

They have made an example of movie stars who are alleged to have gone out of line, banned reality talent shows and ordered broadcasters to stop using “sissy” men and “vulgar influencers”.

Authorities are threatened by the lure of entertainment compulsion that “allows an alternative to the (Communist) party providing spiritual or ideological guidance” for Chinese youth, Steve Tsang, head of the SOAS China Institute, told AFP.

As tensions have risen with the West, China has also pursued a nationalist and militaristic narrative at home, including a vision of harsh masculinity as seen in blockbuster action films such as “Wolf Warrior.”

Regulators and state media have expressed concern about what they see as unpleasant foreign influences on young Chinese men.

“There is a fear of the nation’s future prosperity, which is associated with the quality of the younger generation,” said Altman Peng, a researcher in media and gender at Newcastle University.

The quality of youth, the party has established, is threatened by the entertainment and culture consumed by China’s youth.

Now this control is extended to what young Chinese also play.

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

Analysts said Beijing’s actions were also driven by a desire to curb what it perceives as problematic social trends arising from decades of volatile economic growth and rampant consumerism.

Pop superfans – or punch – have become the latest target in the attack.

Those affected by these actions include Chinese fans of South Korean superstar BTS, after a group crowdfunded special livery on a passenger jet to mark the birthday of a band member.

And some, such as 21-year-old celebrity reality fan Su, see the rules as exaggerated.

“This kind of one-size-fits-all regulation does not promote the development of diversity.”


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