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China bans ‘sissy men’ from TV in new cultural crackdown

TV below portrait of China's president
A home television beneath a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping shows a broadcast of a Chinese talk show.
(Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press)

China’s government banned supposedly effeminate men on TV and told broadcasters Thursday to promote “revolutionary culture,” broadening a campaign to tighten control over business and society and enforce official morality.

President Xi Jinping has called for a “national rejuvenation,” with tighter Communist Party control of business, education, culture and religion. Companies and the public are under increasing pressure to align with its vision of a more powerful China and healthier society.

The party has reduced children’s access to online games and is trying to discourage what it sees as unhealthy attention to celebrities.

Broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics,” the TV regulator said, using an insulting slang term for men perceived as effeminate — “niang pao” or, translated literally, “girlie guns.”

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That reflects official concern that Chinese pop stars, influenced by the sleek, androgynous look of some South Korean and Japanese singers and actors, are failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough.

Broadcasters should avoid promoting “vulgar internet celebrities” and admiration of wealth and fame, the regulator said. Instead, programs should “vigorously promote excellent Chinese traditional culture, revolutionary culture and advanced socialist culture.”

After China imposed a record antitrust fine on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the e-commerce giant did an unusual thing: It thanked regulators.

In July, the ubiquitous social media platform WeChat deleted accounts on LGBTQ topics run by university students and nongovernmental groups. It wasn’t clear whether the step was ordered by Chinese authorities, but it came amid the country’s tightening political and social controls.

Meanwhile, rules that took effect Wednesday limit anyone under 18 to three hours per week of online games and prohibit play on school days.

Game developers already were required to submit new titles for government approval before they could be released. Officials have called on them to add nationalistic themes.

The party also is tightening control over celebrities.

The Chinese government uses fear, division and propaganda to suppress discussion on Xinjiang, as it claims that all citizens support its policies.

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Broadcasters should avoid performers who “violate public order” or have “lost morality,” the regulator said. Programs about the children of celebrities also are banned.

On Saturday, microblog platform Weibo suspended thousands of accounts for fan clubs and entertainment news.

A popular actress, Zhao Wei, has disappeared from streaming platforms without explanation. Her name has been removed from credits of movies and TV programs.

Thursday’s order told broadcasters to limit pay for performers and to avoid contract terms that might help them evade taxes.

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Another actress, Zheng Shuang, was fined 299 million yuan ($46 million) last week on tax evasion charges in a warning to celebrities to be positive role models.


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