In other words, the censorship is working.
“The purpose of this kind of control is to ensure everybody shares the mainstream values,” Ms. Fan said. “We will be easier to manage.”
The Communist Party’s effort to instill what it calls “core socialist values” — patriotism, harmony and civility, among others — is intensifying. Content that celebrates money worship, hedonism or individualism is increasingly removed. Material that was acceptable only a few years ago no longer passes muster.
In a few years’ time, today’s youths will have seen less unfiltered content than people even five years older. Without knowing what they don’t know, they’re likely to be more receptive to party doctrine and easier to govern.
“To cultivate a new generation that will shoulder the responsibility of national rejuvenation, we need to resist erosion from indecent culture,” the official Xinhua News Agency wrote in a 2018 commentary that criticized those it called China’s effeminate young male idols. “More important, we need to nurture outstanding culture.”
Like the internet elsewhere, China’s online community can truck in crude or inflammatory content. China’s toughness may sound appealing to some Americans frustrated by what Facebook, Twitter or YouTube allow.But China takes that attitude to such an extreme that it risks infantilizing the country’s culture. It lacks content-rating systems — like the American industry group that labels movies PG or R, for example — so everything has to be suitable for a 12-year-old to consume.
The sex has been edited out of the local streaming of “Game of Thrones,” rendering the plots that are often explained through “sexposition” nonsensical. The Chinese film industry put a black dress on Sally Hawkins’s nude body when “The Shape of Water” hit theaters there. It cut the most brutal scenes out of the climactic battle between Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in “The Revenant,” as well the brief nudity and gay content in “Green Book.”
Censorship isn’t new. For a time, the Communist Party’s conservative faction conducted a campaign against spiritual pollution. When I was growing up in China in the 1980s, the Communist Party disliked pop music, flared pants, permed hair, love stories and even kissing. The first movie kiss in modern China didn’t take place until 1980.