This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China’s internet regulator on Tuesday ordered online service providers to set up a blacklist of content providers who use celebrity gossip and “vulgar hype” to attract fans, as well as celebrities with an “abnormal aesthetic.”
“Online celebrity culture and vulgar hype have been subjected to repeated bans in recent years,” the Cyberspace Administration said in a statement on its official website.
“A clickbait culture that promotes abnormal aesthetics and sows discord among fans are having a negative impact on mainstream values.”
“The content offered about some celebrities online is below-standard, and filled with gossip and revelations about private matters, while taking up space in headlines and hot search lists,” it said.
“A blacklist should be set up, and entertainment and celebrity content that promotes abnormal aesthetics, vulgar scandal, false disclosures … or promotes star-chasing and other irrational behavior should be prevented from spreading,” the directive said.
The term “abnormal aesthetics” has been used by regulators and political commentators to refer to feminine or androgynous-looking men often heavily influenced by K-pop stars from South Korea, with official media lauding patriotic heroes and “wolf warriors” as more acceptable examples of male aesthetics under the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Platforms should set up systems for the monitoring of popular accounts, and punish those found to publish sub-standard content, it said.
A gaming industry insider who gave only her surname Dai said the move will have a direct impact on celebrities and artists, because being blacklisted would effectively put an end to their careers.
“They need to stop the less scrupulous artists from making a comeback, as some have recently,” Dai said. “They want to make sure that this will be impossible for them [in future].”
“They are cracking down on anyone in the public eye,” she said.
Current affairs commentator Bi Xin said the CCP’s ultimate aim is to eradicate celebrity culture altogether.
“This is all about placing controls on stars and online celebrities, on fan culture, and the phenomenon of fandom as a whole,” Bi told RFA. “It’s an ideological weak point for China.”
“The importance of these idols has taken on mythical proportions in these fan clubs, meaning that the uptake of CCP ideological propaganda in these groups is very low,” he said. “They are worshiping the wrong idols; they want to stop the worship of celebrities.”
Bi said the moves to control celebrity culture is also a form of “stability maintenance” for the regime.
“If they fall through the cracks of CCP mainstream ideological education, they will become a stability maintenance concern,” he said. “That’s why they are constantly tightening controls over celebrity content.”
“They can’t allow it to escalate, or it could be very hard to control.”