China to Ban Celebrities With ‘Incorrect’ Politics, Limit Pay

President Xi Jinping ordered sweeping action to clean up the entertainment industry, with the broadcast regulator moving to ban film stars with “incorrect” politics, cap salaries and rein in celebrity fan culture.  

Television companies and internet platforms were told to “strictly control the selection of program actors and guests, and uphold political literacy, moral conduct, artistic level and social evaluation as selection standards,” according to a statement Thursday from the National Radio and Television Administration.

The regulator added that “those who have incorrect political positions and who are divided in heart and practice from the party and the country must not be used.” The ruling Communist Party’s Publicity Department also published a call to curb “bad trends in the industry, and clarify the culture and entertainment sector.” 

In an interview with party mouthpiece the People’s Daily on Friday, officials from the department vowed to dial up punishment for “unethical” celebrities and extend regulatory of media-related companies and endorsement deals. Officials also put on notice platforms that failed to screen content and stoked indiscretion.

Chinese entertainment stocks were mixed Friday. Mango Excellent Media Co. fell as much as 5.3% in Shenzhen, while Huayi Brothers Media Corp. added as much 3.4%. In Hong Kong, Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd. climbed as much as 2.4% and Maoyan Entertainment rose 1.7%.

While China’s media regulators frequently warn against “vulgar and obscene” content, the latest moves indicate the government is ramping up oversight, zoning in on what state media outlets have characterized as “improper” idol worship, excessive wealth held by some and dubious tax practices. 

The Chinese cyberspace regulator last week told social media platforms to remove all rankings of celebrities. One of China’s most popular film stars, Zhao Wei, was also blacklisted from China’s internet, with her works removed from streaming sites and her fan club cut off from the Twitter-like platform Weibo service. 

And actress Zheng Shuang was ordered to pay 299 million yuan ($46 million) in overdue taxes, late fees and fines last month, and 145 accounts on Weibo defending film star Kris Wu over rape charges were closed down for publishing what the platform called “information harmful for maintaining social order.” 

‘Distorted Aesthetics’ 

Xi’s regulatory crackdown has targeted vast segments of the nation’s economy, from tech companies to the property industry and after-school tutoring. A commentary widely published in state media described the drive as a “profound revolution” sweeping the country and warned that anyone who resisted would face punishment.

The article also warned that “the cultural market will no longer be a paradise for sissy stars, and news and public opinion will no longer be in a position worshiping Western culture.” The regulator’s statement Thursday also ordered an end to “sissy and other distorted aesthetics.”

Reining in the entertainment industry, along with after-school tutoring and online gaming, are part of a cumulative effort to ensure the younger generation -- some of whom are starting to embrace a minimalist lifestyle known as “lying flat” -- become motivated, patriotic and productive workers. 

Other key points in the broadcast regulator’s statement included:

  • Enacting tighter controls on reality shows
  • Promoting and strengthening Chinese culture
  • Avoiding showing off wealth
  • Regulating the pay of actors and cracking down on tax evasion
  • ‘Consciously resist the temptation of fame and wealth’

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.