Fewer Cartoons, and No Horror
Starting on September 1, foreign cartoons will be banned from prime-time television in China. This is part of President Hu Jintao's campaign to promote "made-in-China" content and limit foreign influence in China. It also, hum, happens to dovetail with the views of the political masters in Beijing. The adventurous Astro and the cynical Simpsons will therefore be edged out by classics like Monkey King and others.
Beyond the cartoons, the state has also ordered local TV station to stop showing horror movies, and news anchors are now required to dress more conservatively. Funding for foreign-owned magazines is on the out, too. Of course, the whole operation has very little to do with protecting the Chinese animation (or news, or magazine) markets from outside influence. Rather, it continues a long, transparent tradition of censoring all types of materials, from literature to martial arts movies, that cast notions like resistance to the authorities and individual freedoms in a favorable light.
Of course, in the modern age electronic content is a very fluid thing which is almost impossible to monitor and control, and as the favorites are forced out of airtime, they will reappear in the numerous back stores and shady alleys that dot the country, or they will simply get downloaded off the web. Based on my own experiences in Kowloon, barring a complete crackdown on the night markets, there is nothing the state can do to prevent the proliferation of pirated foreign content from entering the country. Expect the ratings on Chinese TV to drop, though, as kids will continue to ask for their favorite Japanese cartoons and Hollywood horror flicks.
Still, if I were Mickey Mouse or Pluto at the Hong Kong Disney, I'd tread carefully—especially now that the authorities have increased powers of intrusion. It'll be a very bad for democracy indeed when the famous mouse is jailed for attempting to overthrow the power in Beijing.
Come to Taiwan, oh Chinese, where the media offer not only a kaleidoscopic serving of all things Japanese, Korean and American, but also the freedom to say—and wear—what you want on TV. It's a no-holes-barred, unforgiving dog-eat-dog media environment, but at least it's a free one. Two cheers for Japanese manga, horror movies, and newscasts in short skirts!