Why Do Celebrities Disappear from the Chinese Internet?

This year, the Chinese Communist Party has launched an active program to give the internet a new form and content. 

We’ve already talked about the surveillance system in China here.

Now the authorities have decided to take in hand internet celebrities: the “vulgar hype” and “abnormal aesthetics” must be done away with for the benefit of the younger generation of Chinese.

It is still interesting to observe the peculiarities of the development of the Chinese internet.

The pluses and minuses of internet censorship are here.

Be afraid of the fans

As is often the case in China, it started with criticism in the state newspaper, the People’s Daily. Through its pages, the authorities’ messages are brought to the citizens, and soon find their embodiment in legislative acts or regulatory documents.

Chinese internet rules

In August of this year, the newspaper published criticism of internet platforms that make stars out of “unworthy people.” They say that under the influence of social networks, teenagers often choose which people to follow solely because of the latter’s popularity on a particular social platform.

No specific names or companies were mentioned there, but the signal was clear. The Weibo service (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) reacted immediately: the list of celebrities, based on the number of subscribers and engagement of their posts, disappeared from their site.

The Chinese authorities are concerned not so much about the celebrities themselves but rather the potential of their fan clubs. Regularly these are armies of fans from among teenagers and students who can quickly mobilize online or offline to protest in defense of their favorite star.

For example, this summer in Beijing, a popular singer Kris Wu was arrested, suspected of rape. A 19-year-old girl accused him of taking advantage of her helplessness two years ago when she got very drunk. Millions of followers continued to follow his accounts in Western social networks (more than 7 million on Instagram alone), but Chinese fan pages were quickly closed.

Therefore, there were calls in the Chinese state media: fan culture should be corrected, and social networks should become a safe place for the younger generation. They are guaranteed to see only socially responsible role models of behavior. This was said in August — by November, it was done.

Learn more about Internet censorship in Turkmenistan in this article.

Wolf Warrior

The Cyberspace Administration of China is known primarily for its innovative approach to working with the network space. This agency regulates everything related to the internet — from using suitable usernames to the purchase of network products and services to ensure national security.

Thanks to this management, more than a hundred programs, including TripAdvisor, were removed from the Chinese versions of digital app stores a year ago. In addition, this year a hotline was opened where you can complain about comments against the Communist Party of China. In general, this is one of the most active and, as already stated, innovative departments of the Celestial Empire.

“The internet culture of celebrities and vulgar hype has been repeatedly banned. The culture of clickbait, which promotes abnormal aesthetics and sows discord among fans, harms core values,” the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement at the end of November.

Officials expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the content from celebrities on the internet does not meet specific standards and consists of gossip and revelations about personal affairs. Therefore, social networks should create a blacklist and not distribute content that promotes abnormal aesthetics, vulgar scandals, and irrational behavior.

By abnormal aesthetics, for example, the Chinese authorities understand feminine young men who are often influenced by K-Pop stars from South Korea. They prefer to sing “fighting wolves” as a more acceptable example of male aesthetics in the state media. This popular designation has caught on as a description of masculinity thanks to two Chinese war films from the Wolf Warrior series (something like an Asian “Rambo”).

Wolf warriors

The same term (“wolf warrior”) has often been used in recent years concerning Chinese diplomacy, which has taken a step away from the precepts of Xiaoping and, under Jinping, has become more strident, assertive, and sometimes more rude. Therefore, it is not surprising that the femininity of individual Chinese celebrities cannot but annoy the “wolf warrior.”

Therefore, the “internet watchers” decided social networks should create monitoring systems for popular accounts, the owners of which will be punished for non-standard content.

Experts assess the innovations as a fight against an ideological China. Idols have acquired mythical scales of importance for fans and prevent the spread of ideological propaganda of the Communist Party.

Previously, China launched a facial recognition system to track online users.

The stars are going out

On the other hand, the fan clubs of stars in Asia acquire chaotic, irrational features. These little monsters, nurtured by social networks, can take money for membership or arrange network wars among themselves with the publication of personal information on the internet.

At the end of the summer, the Chinese streaming platform iQiyi, amid all the regulators’ statements, canceled plans to hold a talent contest — a “factory” of future celebrities. The CEO of the company suddenly considered such a show “unhealthy — probably in many ways” because one of the sponsors was Mengniu Dairy milk. Fans of one or another rising star were enticed to buy this milk to earn points for their idol. Naturally, the fans did not actually drink it but poured it into the sewers en masse. 270,000 spoiled bottles of the product were reported.

Chinese celebrities are well aware of which country they live in. They watched from the front rows how one of the most famous, rich, and influential businessmen of the country, Jack Ma, fell into disgrace among the elite and seemed to be preparing to lose his empire.

In the West, celebrities are digitally ostracized with the howling and hooting of an angry crowd in social networks. In China, celebrities are “canceled” by the state itself, and it does it in cold blood for the edification of others.

So, the popular actress Zhao Wei fell out of favor. Many of her films, shows, and videos have disappeared from the internet. A large online forum where her fans communicated was also disconnected. The actress’s name was removed from those works that have not yet been deleted. A search for her name in Tencent Video or on iQiyi shows no results.

At the same time, the authorities remain silent, and no one can name any obvious reasons for removing mentions of the actress from the internet. She always seemed to have a good public image.

But, as the People’s Daily wrote, if celebrities want to continue doing art, they have to take into account the lower limit of morality: “Otherwise, as soon as you touch the red line of law and morality, you will reach the “finish line.”

Red lines increasingly outline the world.

So, we all should be concerned about online surveillance.


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