Chinese Censors Target Hip Hop
Chinese hip hop culture and rap scene target of government crackdown
China's broadcast regulator has issued new standards specifically warning entertainment programs not to feature guests who promote hip hop culture, in its latest effort to purify the country's cultural output.
The standards were not released publicly, but were published online by Chinese entertainment outlets and correspond with a state media campaign against one of the country's most famous rappers.
In recent weeks, breakthrough rapper PG One has come under fire for the content of some of his lyrics, which state media say promote misogyny and drug use.
Outlets like the jingoistic Communist Party-owned Global Times have cited lyrics such as "pure white powder in a line" and "shameless bitch with restless hands" as examples.
The campaign gained steam after the 23-year-old became the centre of a celebrity scandal that linked him with a famous married actress Li Xiaolu.
The scandal prompted fans to trawl PG One's lyrics, and the offending lines triggered a government campaign that has now seen the rapper's songs removed from many online music platforms.
But the campaign didn't stop there.
The new guidelines from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television stipulate four types of guests that entertainment programs "resolutely don't need".
Among the list, guests who promote "vulgarity", "values different from the Party" and "sub cultures".
Specifically, guests who promote hip hop culture and tattoos are listed in the guidelines.
The leak of the new rules coincided with the sudden removal of another star rapper from a popular television singing program.
Twenty-nine-year-old GAI, the joint winner with PG One of a massively popular hip hop contest last year, has suddenly disappeared from a Hunan television program that he featured on alongside international stars such as Jessie J.
GAI's removal came despite a recent media appearance in which he appeared to ingratiate himself with authorities by praising "the motherland" in song.
Chinese hip hop goes mainstream
While US hip hop has long been popular among some young people in China, the homegrown variant has until recently remained a niche subculture.
But the popularity of the online program China Has Hip Hop in which PG One and GAI emerged last year thrust the genre into mainstream popularity.
State media opinion writers have stressed that the traditional anti-authoritarian themes that emerged from American MCs rapping about racial discrimination, drug use and gang violence are not suitable for China.
The official pushback comes as China's government stresses increasing confidence not just in its system of governance, but in the promotion of traditional Chinese culture and "socialist" values.
Hip hop's future uncertain
President Xi Jinping stressed the need to "perfect the systemic management of culture" during a major speech in Beijing late last year.
Since the country's opening up in the late 1970s, Chinese leaders have sought to retain a protective membrane on overseas influence — embracing ideas they regard as constructive while using repressive measures to block "harmful" influences.
For young hip hop fans like Beijing resident Cai Malong, the campaign against rap does not bode well.
"Hip hop is in such a rudimentary stage in China, my friends all listen to pop and don't have any real feeling for rap," he said.
"If the Government doesn't support hip hop, it'll be very difficult for it to grow.
"Its future prospects don't look bright."