Do’s and Don’ts

by Linda Jaivin

Still from SAPPRFT’s video shorts
Source: YouTube

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) had a busy 2017. The following are among the year’s major directives:

  • China’s 2,500-odd television stations must no longer broadcast shows ‘focussed on entertainment’ or ‘with foreign elements’ during primetime.
  • Online video content must follow a new set of ‘general rules’ 通则 issued in September. These include a ban on depictions of homosexuality, which they lump together with incest and sexual assault under ‘abnormal sexual behaviour’ — despite homosexuality having been decriminalised in 1997 and struck off China’s official list of ‘mental disorders’ in 2001. At the end of September, the online forum Tianya 天涯 announced the closure of its sub-discussion board ‘Accompanying You Along the Road’ 一路同行, which for eighteen years had been a meeting place and publishing hub for personal stories and fiction for China’s LGBTQ population — due to ‘external factors outside our control’.
  • Mid-year, in the interest of ensuring that online video ‘adheres to the correct political direction, and works hard to disseminate contemporary Chinese values’, SAPPRFT targetted 155 online programs as problematic; by September, 125 were permanently offline. Among them: Phoenix TV’s online video services and the popular talk show Behind the Headlines 锵锵三人行, which for nearly twenty years had hosted lively — perhaps too lively — discussions on a range of topics.
  • Even the title of the talk show Behind the Headlines entered the growing lexicon of banned words. These now include the use of ‘boss’ 老板 for Party leaders; the word ‘citizens’ 公民 to describe the people 民众 of Taiwan; and the use of ‘foreign visit’ 出访 to describe Party leaders’ trips to Hong Kong and Macau (such trips are ‘inspections’ 视察).6
  • Celebrity culture took a hit as well. The press is no longer to speak of celebrities in terms such as ‘emperor of the big screen’ 影帝, ‘superstar’ 巨星, and ‘goddess’ 女神. They are all now simply to be known as ‘famous actors’ 著名演员. The authorities shut down a number of entertainment-focussed sites and banned online promotion of ultra-luxe lifestyles.
  • Go to the cinema and before the main feature you will now sit through one of four video shorts produced by SAPPRFT and featuring famous actors including Jackie Chan, Li Bingbing, Angelababy, and Donnie Yen. These promote the twelve ‘socialist core values’, including prosperity and the ‘China Dream’ as well as the building of a ‘moderately prosperous society’.