China Ups the Restrictions on Overseas Shows and User Internet Participation

As a drama fan the last month has been terrible for the spread of shows to watch after China enforced the latest regulation that all overseas shows airing online must go through the same approval process as domestic productions. In China, all shows whether variety or dramatic must go through a two step process to make it on air – a synopsis must be submitted for approval prior to commencement of filming, and the end product must also be submitted for review and approval before it’s allowed to air. Overseas shows that air on television have been required to get SARFT approval first but the same hasn’t been applied to airing online.

Now the two have been aligned and starting in 2015 all overseas shows (US, Korea, Japan, etc.) must submit the completed full show, with subtitles, to SARFT for approval prior to streaming over the Chinese video portals. That is already a high bar but SARFT recently tightened the restriction further and mandates all Chinese video sites cannot have over 30% of its content be overseas shows. Da fuq is this, the pre-Tiananmen proverbial the stone ages? This week came the giant hammer of doom as China just announced all internet users in any capacity must register their real names prior to participating in online activity. O__O I’m officially speechless now.

All K-dramas that have started airing in 2015 have not seen the official light of day in the Chinese video streaming sites, with netizens complaining of the fast crackdown on illegally uploaded episodes. For example, Kill Me Heal Me has been extremely popular despite not being officially licensed in China, but viewers who have watched episodes find the video gone by the next day. Bummer. This confirms that the new regulations also come with demands that the video portals strictly self-monitor overseas content whereas in the past unlicensed shows and dramas only got the videos pulled weeks or months later when the content owners complain.

The new online activity regulations will go into effect on March 1 and is expected to have a huge impact on discussion forums, weibo activity, and comment chatter. Not only do netizens need to register using their real names to get an online account in any Chinese website, they are not allowed to choose usernames from the following 9 banned categories: anything that harms national security, involves national secrets, incites ethnic discrimination or hatred, or harms national unity, or names that promote pornography, gambling, violence, terror, superstition and rumors. Users will also be required to a new term of service agreeing to respect the law, the socialist political system, and social morality and truth, before being allowed to use a given service.


China Ups the Restrictions on Overseas Shows and User Internet Participation — 46 Comments

  1. although there is no one particular dictator that heads china…it is still a communist country, not a democratic country where majority wins.
    good thing I don’t live there…i’ll go crazy without any kdrama!
    and by the way…my “real name” does not have numbers included in it 🙂

  2. Koala, you do realize China is a one-state authoritian regime, right? Who censures all media. How can you be surprised by this? The only interesting question is: will this affect the writing of Korean shows who hope to sell to China?

    • Er, my undergrad major was IR and I wrote my honors thesis on the effects of the ’97 one-state-two-systems proposal on future pan-Chinese political reunifications. I’m pretty sure I know China is a communist state LOL. It’s not so simple to take this latest internet lock down in stride when Zhongnanhai has been opening up non-political discourse freedoms for the last 20 years under the auspices of promoting economic growth and welcoming foreign investments. This is a clear sign that the current leadership is prioritizing state control over economic benefits to the country. That’s really the issue worth pondering with much greater ramifications than whether Zhang San or Li Si can comment away online under the fake cloud of anonymity like in the past. I’m not surprised by whatever China does, the correct reaction is to be very very concerned about what else is to come.

      • “I’m not surprised by whatever China does..”

        But you did write: “Da fuq is this, the stone ages? (…) I’m officially speechless now.” I take it we agree this is a colloquial expression for being surprised? You may not have *been* surprised, but you did write that you were…

        I do agree with your last observation.

      • Heh, that was me having some punny fun with the ridiculousness. The latest limitations on freedom of speech hence —–> I am speechless now.

  3. Yikes! Aish!

    Who in the world picks a username name that contains “national secrets”??? What kind of national secrets are they talking about?

  4. The d-day will only come if fansubbing groups quit their job. When there’s a huge demand, there’s always a way. I don’t have a habit of streaming my videos so I usually download from Chinese subbing group sites and they’re still very fast. Subs come out in 5-6 hours after the broadcast in Korea.

    Licensed streaming sites only got popular in the recent years but their subs still come from major fansubbing groups (they collaborated together) so honestly, SARFT decision doesn’t affect much…

    • But if the Chinese subbing sites were inside China, they can no longer access the new dramas, right? If I am reading this correctly.
      Unless the fansubbers are all over the world.

      • it s illegal to upload a video drama, but i dont think it s illegal to upload srt files, at least that what i read from this post.
        So find your torrent files, download them, then find srt files, download them, then watch ( just like the old days)

  5. This is mostly affecting American shows. Korean dramas last about three to four months the most so it`s not like Chinese people have to wait a long time to see them. But can you imagine having to watch Game of Thrones after all 10+ seasons are out? I too would be pissed.

    • I think GoT is going to be 7 seasons should end in 3 years. The question is, after making such big deal of women showing their cleavage will they air GoT? I guess the editing department will have lotsa work to do 😛

    • Judging by the fact that they banned Big Bang Theory last year in China, I doubt that GoT would be let through, at least without heavy editing.

      • Lol i was just using an example, can you imagine if you can`t see the drama you really like and you have to wait for 10 years to see it. I used GoT cause it`s the drama i personally like. I know it would never get approval of SARFT.

  6. You really do have to wonder what the wider implications of this media crackdown are for the future of foreign media in China. It sounds as though they are planning to regulate it to the point where foreign companies will choose not to make their programs available to China at all. I think that is what the Chinese government actually wants to curtail the influence of foreign media on the Chinese people. You really do have to wonder what the Chinese government’s endgame will be.

    • Foreign media = foreign influences. Foreign influences = challenges to the status quo/authority of the state. In order to control the mind-set of billions of people, you need to control the information they recieve, both in fact and in fiction, to make sure that it conforms to the point of view you wish to cultivate. For this reason, the government also changes the story (see Gangnam 1970) when the media item can’t be entirely forbidden.

  7. As a Kdrama user I feel sorry for them.

    As an overseas Chinese- I feel even more sorry for the average Chinese citizen. I am sure the rich as usual will get away with murder. I wonder what happens if you go overseas and then bring back stuff.

    What about VPN users? Are they going to prosecute them or are we talking jail time or harsher punishments? Is the government for real? They hope to participate in international relations but impose such restrictions on their citizens?

    Actually I feel more perturbed about the individual’s rights rather than just drama watching restrictions. If that makes sense?

    • Agree. My first thought was for other internet uses too.

      Even if we joke about not being able to live w/o kdramas, I think we *can* survive. What scares me is the requirement to register under your real name for any Chinese website. It’ll be harder to hide/do things the gov’t doesn’t want you to do.

  8. I was never on top of Chinese news but with the current crackdown on corrupt officials, I thought China was finally a tiny bit better to live in. The changes in requiring SARFT permission and limiting to 30% foreign media doesnt really bother me much tbh. In another perspective, I thought it was fair toward domestic entertainment as well considering they are so much restricted on plotline compared to foreign entertainment. What bothers me is the ‘real name’ requirement. What little ‘freedom’ Chinese citizens were able to enjoyed is now also gone. It is quite unsettling and sad.

  9. wow, freedom of speeh is almost being thrown out the door in China. Soon enough, maybe they’ll start requiring people to enter their passport / ID numbers or something -_- ugh. Getting SO effing ridiculous with their online restrictions. Wtf is wrong with them. New generation of people need to start taking over the government positions. All these oldies are just crazy.

  10. Wasnt there an article that said chinese officials have a talk about why China can’t make a popular drama like you from another star? They talked about censorship being one of the number 1 drawbacks. Not sure about the full details as to how. But I was wondering if they would be more open minded about it but it seems like they only got stricter.

  11. Things are getting tighter but perhaps the requirement of registering your real name might be a good thing. Probably will get netizens to think before they say online. But the requirement for username to not contain words under the categories are a bit absurd.

    • Not absurd, actually very clever. The categories of restriction are so broad and undefined that just about anyone could have their account labeled offensive and shut down; and since they have to register using their real name, getting another account would be impossible. This is a way of cutting off dissenting voices as quickly as possible.

  12. as much as i hate my gvt, i m thankful that the FCC had now allow net neutrality, all thanks to John Oliver.

    It s very pity for cnetz to be censored like this.

  13. It is a small country in comparison, but Canada has restrictions on what % of music has to be Canadian 35- 40% in these categories: MAPL Music, Artist, Producer, Lyrics.

    Overall it was a good thing for a music industry that would have drowned out by its southern neighbor. There isn’t only bad associated with requiring home-grown content.

    The only reason the US doesn’t have quotas is the United States is pretty much unaware that other countries actually make music, etc. (Just kidding.) (Not really.)

      • Trade restrictions rarely result in an excellent product. when India banned all car imports, they had the crappiest cars imaginable: creaky rust-buckets based on a 1950’s Fiat with springs you could feel in the seats. Allowing foreign imports meant that domestic models finally had to step up to the plate and compete in terms of performance and comfort, which they have.
        In terms of music, my teenage daughter just had the luxury of creating a 700-song playlist featuring everything from Icelandic new age to J-pop. With no restrictions, she can literally travel the world in search of whatever music appeals to her. I am sure she would find restrictions based on country of origin ridiculous…if the music is good, it will be found.

  14. I don’t 100% agree with the Chinese governemnt new regulation that all dramas, movies, etc should be censored before they are released to the public. However, on a certain extent, if i put myself in the government position, I can uderstand the need of censorship to control what goes inside the public especially if it’s something that fundamentally changes the way of lives or something that will create instability in the future, such as the shift in belief, culture, norms, etc. Not only that, being a giant in economics and politics, China also awares that its position could be seen as a threat to some big countries. That’s why being alert is needed before the inflitration and bombardier through culture change become a big issue that will destroy China from inside.

    Maybe what Cicero says is true to why the Chinese governement takes this measure: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. The traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rusting through all the alleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. He rots the soul of nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.”

    I know, maybe, not all of you agree with my view but in this forum, i believe, we learn to agree to disagree.

    • If the government can control what people see and hear by blocking input, does that mean they can successfully control the way people think or direct the people’s desires?

      And why does the government get to decide what I put in my brain? Shouldn’t I have all information available – good, bad and indifferent – so I can make a well-rounded decision about things? Knowledge about things outside my reality should never be considered dangerous. Too much censorship is treating citizens like children who can’t be trusted to think for themselves, to choose for themselves. For example, Jersey Shore and the “Housewives of” franchise are available to me, but I have never watched the shows. It’s junk food tv, but it is only part of what is out there.
      As long as there is a good mix of entertainment, people can enjoy what they like and ignore the trash, but it should be up to them.

      • It’s not an easy thing to do to manage more than 1,2 billion people with different way of thinking. A certain decision mostly will have benefits and setbacks, but the one with greater purposes to prosper and stabilize the country should come first. As what will come to a country when the people are hungry.

        In the case of censorship, of course, there are some setbacks like what the human right organization puts nicely that it’s against the freedom of thinking and speech.

        However, to answer your question: if we study from history, we’ll be surprised that in fact people’s minds and desires can be controlled and directed to what the minorites want to. “Propaganda” by Edward Barnays is the manual for that. Barnays’ manual has been successfully implemented (politically) when he engineered the public relation behind the US-backed coup which overthrow the democratic government of Guatemala. Barnays’ other major success (socially) is the one that make women smoke in 1920s when he successfully launched a huge campaign for Chesterfield. This success of making women smoke give tremendous benefit for cigarette industries and give raise to many medical problems.

        You can also read Noam Chimsky “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream” that explains the psychology of public relations, propaganda and political leadership, organizing chaos, etc.

        If all of us like you and me who think twice before committing to watch a certain movie or drama, or a kind of person who can judge before doing something, the book of Propaganda will be an empty threat to our freedom of thinking. I’ve been going around my country and what I witness confirms me the prevalent of propaganda in any sectors (through advertising, entertainment, news, etc) of lives that has helped people improve their lives and at the same time threatened the local values that have been the foundation of my country for centuries (Fyi, I’m not a Chinese)

        What I’m trying to reason with this censorship is that the Chinese government is trying hard to block the inflitration of culture that might destroy the foundation of the country that has been built with blood and hard works. Of course, on the side, sacrifices are needed. In my opinion, if censorship is done properly and not in extreme, it will give benefit more than setback, On the positive side of this case, at the end of the day, the Chinese will be able to watch the dramas, movies, etc they want to eventhough it’s delayed.

      • It’s easy to sit back in a comfortable armchair and decide what censorship is best for someone else, isn’t it?
        Would you be happy with someone else deciding what information you recieve, since after all it is for your own good, to preserve your safety and stability? You have had the luxury of reading Barnay’s “Propaganda” – what if your country decided that this information was detrimental to the well-being of the citizens of the state, and so your comment would be deleted here, your account privileges revoked, and perhaps a trip to a re-education camp in order? Would you then be so sanguine about censorship?
        North Korea has a very bloody past, and it’s people have often suffered from unspeakable hunger. Does this mean that their oppression is necessary and deserved?

    • Selena, have you ever lived in communist country? I did, and believe me it’s not a fun. The government starts with controlling your entertainment, then what you wear, where you go, what you think, who you live with, who you marry to, when and how to die. You can count everything as a propaganda, every movie, book or forum, but if you have learned to think independently you can see behind the propaganda and make you own decision. That’s why good education is important: it teaches you critical thinking.

  15. I think It’s a matter of benefits.
    They saw how popular foreign films/ dramas have become and how the stars came over to make heaps of $$$ (eg Kim soo hyun in the aftermath of YWCFTS and lee min Ho from heirs) but they don’t get a cut. So curb it, restrict it and find a way to get into the food chain of things.
    Plus it’s also slightly abt national pride,
    Some of the older foggies in govt see it that fervor for non state produced dramas films as a no-no and find it ridiculous. And of course they also find it is impt for them to “mother” their nation on what they are watching.
    But mostly it’s all about the $$$&

  16. What you haven’t mentioned is that this recent ruling applies to Hong Kong dramas as well. In Guangdong province, Cantonese is now banned from all public broadcasts. In the past few years they’ve also increasingly curbed access to historical archives. What declassified documents scholars of modern China used to have access to 10 years ago, they no longer do. Meanwhile, year on year, the Chinese military budget is increasing by double digits. CCP controlled China has always been authoritarian to say the least but in recent years, the situation has been getting worse.

  17. I wrote under another article here an hour ago, saying that the regulations will get stronger and now I see I was right! Should I buy myself a crystal globe?
    I think the Chinese official actually saved the Korean entertainment industry from it’s own downfall. In the recent years we saw the increase of the greed and ambitions of the Ent.companies. They were producing dramas thinking only how to sell them on higher price. Sorry to say that, but “My lovely girl” would be the laughter of the year, if it wasn’t sold so expensive in China and some part of the money went to the korean media to obturate their mouths.

  18. I’ve mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s sad for kdrama fans who will have to go back to the dark ages of illegal fansub but on the other hand, it’ll make harder for kdramas to get those overseas money as China is trying to shot down Korean dramas and the Hallyu is almost dead in Japan. Add to that poor homeland ratings and S. Korea’s drama industry will have to change if they don’t want to sink. We’ll probably have more dramas of quality which don’t revolve on tired makjang elements and Hallyu actors/Kpop stars but the best actors for a role. And the damned live-shoot disappearing would be nice too!

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