Comic and animation fans in China were in for a nasty shock this weekend as authorities turned their crackdown on the entertainment industry to yet another target.
The National Radio and Television Administration, the country’s broadcasting authority, announced late Friday that it would ban cartoons and other TV shows primarily produced for children that contain any mention of violence, blood, vulgarity or pornography.
TV channels must “resolutely resist bad plots,” and instead only broadcast “excellent cartoons with healthy content and promote truth, goodness and beauty,” said the authority in a statement on its website.
“Children and adolescents are the main audience groups of cartoons,” the authority said, adding that broadcast organizations should set up special TV channels for children that create a good environment for “the healthy growth of young people.”
The new regulation applies to all cartoons broadcast on television as well as those streamed online — and though the authority did not name any specific shows, networks wasted no time in enforcing it.
“Ultraman Tiga,” a hugely popular Japanese series about a superhero who protects Earth from monsters and aliens, was removed from online streaming platforms on Friday. State-run tabloid GlobalTimes suggested it could have been removed because its “violent plot” included fight scenes and explosions.
Tea show’s removal sparked widespread outcry and dismay from its Chinese fans. The topic trended on the heavily censored Chinese social media platform Weibo. One popular post, which broke the news on the ban, was liked more than 1 million times before being deleted. A hashtag over the show’s removal has so far been viewed more than 84 million times.
“So many people liked to watch the animation Tiga when they were young. It’s not only [expresses] belief in the light, but it’s also my people’s childhood memories. Besides, it doesn’t bring people any negative impact,” one Weibo user commented under the now-deleted post, possibly referencing the “light” of humanity and justice that saves the hero during the series.
“Ultraman Tiga,” which first aired in 1996, is part of the larger Ultraman franchise that debuted in 1966 and gained popularity across Asia. The hero’s ubiquity is comparable to that of Superman in the United States.
Some on Chinese social media pointed out that conflict is a part of life and that cartoons offer a valuable way to teach children about more complicated issues. “Is this world either black or white?” commented another Weibo user under the deleted post. “Isn’t it good to talk more about human nature?”
Others argued that if authorities were concerned about portrayals of violence or vulgarity, they might as well ban the Four Classic Novels — four highly influential works written between the 14th and 18th centuries and considered masterpieces in Chinese literature — as they include plotlines of civil war, government corruption, executions and murder, and young romance. The novels, particularly “Journey to the West,” and their adaptations continue to be taught to children and studied in schools.
But their protests may be in vain. China has been signaling a crackdown on cartoons and other shows — including many produced in China — for a while.
In April, authorities in Jiangsu province released a list of 21 cartoons and television dramas that could affect children’s development. The list included the well-known shows “Peppa Pig,” a British cartoon series; “My Little Pony,” an American cartoon; and “Case Closed,” also known as “Detective Conan,” a massively successful Japanese manga and anime series.
Friday’s ban comes as Chinese authorities clamp down on various sectors of the entertainment industry, ranging from “idol” competition shows to K-pop fan clubs and “effeminate” male pop stars.
During the government’s efforts to clean up the industry, a number of “misbehaving celebrities” have been reportedly blacklisted by broadcast authorities, according to a list that circulated on social media in August.
In nearly all of the recent bans and crackdowns, Chinese officials and state media have consistently decried the supposed capitalist moral decay and Western values threatening young minds, and encouraged instead nationalism and loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party among Chinese youth.
For instance, on Friday, Beijing’s television and radio authority launched a training course designed to teach broadcasters and entertainment workers to make content that has a “positive influence” on the public, according to GlobalTimes. That means discouraging materialism and vanity, it said, while spreading “correct values” such as “patriotic thinking” and “national spirit.”