The A-Zs that rocked 2021: Xi Jinping crackdown

Chinese President Xi Jinping in September ordered a clean-up of the Chinese entertainment industry. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE – A number of scandals rocked the Chinese entertainment scene this year – notably the arrest of pop star Kris Wu for rape, and the surrogacy and tax evasion controversies involving actress Zheng Shuang.

And Chinese President Xi Jinping has had enough.

In September, he ordered a clean-up of the industry, leading to sweeping changes in the film, television, variety show and pop culture scene.

China’s state agency, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) released an eight-point directive outlining its goals to reform the entertainment industry.

It called for the boycotting of celebrities who have “incorrect politics”, banning of idol training shows such as Youth With You (2019 to 2021) and Produce 101 China (2018), and the rejection of “sissy” men. Harsh punishments are in store for tax-dodging stars, and caps have been placed on celebrity earnings.

The NRTA also criticised chaotic and toxic fandoms, as well as “dan gai” dramas – which are adapted from boys’ love novels – for polluting the wider culture.

Some of the hottest Chinese dramas in recent years have come from this genre – including The Untamed (2019) and Word Of Honor (2021).

The crackdown was swift and unforgiving, bringing down some of the country’s biggest stars and their fan clubs in days.

Wu’s Weibo account, which had more than 50 million followers, was deleted. Many Weibo accounts that defended the 31-year-old singer were also swiftly banned.

Zheng, 30, a popular actress, was erased from Chinese television and Internet.

Also mysteriously blacklisted was A-list billionaire actress Vicki Zhao – best known for playing Little Swallow in the period drama My Fair Princess (1998 to 1999). The 45-year-old, who had courted controversy over her business interests in the past, had her works removed from Chinese video streaming platforms and her name scrubbed from many projects she was involved in.

The authorities also ordered the removal of all rankings of celebrities on Chinese Internet to avoid fans creating “traffic” for a celebrity through organised voting.

A fan account for K-pop boy band BTS was banned from Weibo after members raised funds to customise an airplane for member Jimin’s birthday.

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