On Sept. 2, China’s television regulator banned effeminate men on the screen, saying that broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics,” using an insulting slang term for effeminate men — “niang pao,” or literally, “girly guns.” The order reflected official concern that Chinese pop stars, imitating the sleek look of some South Korean and Japanese singers and actors, were failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough, the Associated Press reported. The government was reacting to the success in recent years of young, delicate-featured male entertainers, and celebrities who star in blockbuster movies, advertise for cosmetic brands and top music charts. As Helen Gao explained two years ago in the New York Times, their rise has been one of the biggest cultural trends of the past decade. Now, they will be erased from television screens, because the party-state knows best.
On Aug. 30, China’s video game regulator announced a tightening of rules governing hundreds of millions of gamers: Those under 18 years old can play online for just an hour on Fridays, weekends and holidays, and are barred from playing during the school week. Last month, a newspaper affiliated with China’s official news agency, Xinhua, published a report calling online gaming “spiritual opium” harming the country’s teenagers. “Young people are the future of the motherland,” declared a government explanatory statement about the rules. China has blamed online games for causing nearsightedness and addiction in youths. No doubt there are parents in many countries who might occasionally yearn for a little help in persuading their children to read a book or go outside and play. But not many in the end would want to cede parenting decisions to an authoritarian party-state.
Mr. Xi’s two predecessors allowed China’s people more personal freedom and provided a rising living standard in exchange for loyalty to the party. These latest initiatives suggest that Mr. Xi is reversing that by putting more of an ideological stamp on society — with the Communist Party of China setting the pace — and that he will be far more intrusive in doing so. A school curriculum that includes Mr. Xi’s turgid political philosophy is now being imposed on an unusually young audience, starting from the third grade. Separately, Mr. Xi has launched a campaign to rein in entrepreneurs who displayed any spirit of independence.
Maybe Mr. Xi knows best — about everything, on behalf of everyone. But the more power concentrates in one man, the more brittle the system may become.