As China continues its crackdown on dissidents and journalists and lawyers, it appears to be slipping back into its old habits from the cultural revolution. Chinese censors have issued new regulations banning all depictions of gay people on television. Other depictions banned as “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content include content showing extramarital affairs, one night stands and underage relationships as illegal on screen. The new censorship regulation also extends to “smoking, drinking, adultery, sexually suggestive clothing, even reincarnation.”
Of course, none of this seriously matters since the chief censor of China announced recently that there is no censorship in China . . . and he should, after all, know. He is the chief censor.
The problem of course with authoritarian rule is that truly stupid laws tend not to be vetted or challenged before they are promulgated. In the case of the Soviet five year plans, the result was the devastation of the economy and farming. The absence of critics and counter-political forces allows moronic ideas to be promulgated and replicated.
History has shown that censoring images and ideas are largely fruitless exercises. We experimented with such regulations in this country, both governmental and self-imposed movie standards. They were widely ridiculed and circumvented. All that they did was give boosts to politicians who sought to impose their moral strictures upon everyone else in society. The market ultimately crushed such standards.
China is filled with tech-savvy, modern people who are not going to accept the Chinese version of Gene Autry films as the mainstay of Chinese cinema. Ironically, this reactionary move comes at a time when Chinese cinema is blossoming into a global leader. That may be precisely the problem for the regime. Chinese movie sales are booming and that clearly makes the regime uneasy. The government wants more control over images and content. It is not likely to maintain strict limits on the Internet and news while allowing “counter-revolutionary” images to reach the public in movie theaters.
The new regulations state that “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”
It is the latest reactionary measure in the dark legacy of Xi Jinping. While corruption and abuse continue to flourish under his rule, the Party has always maintained a puritanical image. For example, in December 2014, it stopped the popular TV show, The Empress of China, from being broadcast because the actors showed too much cleavage. It is also decidedly homophobic — maintaining the position that homosexuality is a “psychological disorder” in textbooks.
Of course, as the regime allows greater economic and cultural gaps to form between the party and the public, it may only be hastening its own eventual demise. For the moment however it is most worry about the image of a chain smoking, scantily dressed, alcohol drinking gay man in a movie clip.