China embarks on regulating far-fetched anti-Japanese TV dramas

10 July 2013 22 h 24 min Comments Off

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(The Asahi Shimbum BEIJING, Jul 09, 2013) –On Chinese TV, in a popular drama, a Chinese soldier easily fends off bullets from Japanese troops and tears apart the Japanese soldiers with his kung fu prowess. In another drama, a beautiful Chinese female soldier, who flies through the sky, defeats a horde of invading Japanese troops with only a bow and arrow.

The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have finally said enough is enough, embarking on a campaign to regulate “anti-Japanese TV dramas” that are too exaggerated and unrealistic.

The number of dramas that depicted Red Army soldiers defeating Japanese troops in the Japan-China war from the 1930s to 1945 has increased dramatically in recent years partly due to a campaign of “patriotic education.”

Because many of them have been produced based on too far-fetched and patriotic scenarios, criticism has been growing from actors and viewers.

With such Hollywood-like fanciful plots and performances, those dramas are attracting viewers. However, the artistic licenses they were taking forced the Communist Party and the Chinese government to begin regulating them for the first time in May.

According to officials of the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the organization met with executives of broadcasting stations throughout the country. In that meeting, the government told them that it will restrict excessive exaggeration of anti-Japanese dramas.

The Communist Party’s Propaganda Department also issued a criticism, saying, “Some dramas are too exaggerated and vulgar.” It issued a notice banning the broadcasting of such dramas.

According to Chinese newspapers, about 150 series of anti-Japanese dramas were produced during the 55-year period from 1949, when the Communist Party-led government was established, to 2004. In 2005, however, about 20 such series were produced in the year alone. The figure further increased to 70 in 2012.

Behind the sharp increase exists the commercialization of the broadcast industry.

In China, there are more than 2,000 broadcasting stations, including major ones based in big cities, in addition to the state-run China Central Television.

Concerning the contents of their programs, they are placed under the direction and supervision of the Communist Party and the government. They receive certain subsidies, although their main operating income is derived mostly from commercials. Because of that, they are vigorously competing with each other for higher viewer ratings.

Meanwhile, the number of broadcast stations that have the ability to produce dramas on their own is small, forcing many of them to purchase programming from production companies.

In such constraints, the broadcast stations began to place importance on anti-Japanese dramas of simple plots that depict Japanese troops as devils and Chinese soldiers as heroes. They made the programming shift because those kinds of dramas will attract higher ratings.

In addition, anti-Japanese dramas were encouraged under the patriotic education campaign, which was launched by then Chinese President Jiang Zemin in the 1990s. The encouragement also promoted their excessive staging and commercialization.

“Due to the influences of the government’s censorship, it is not permitted to use the Cultural Revolution (from the 1960s to the 1970s) or the Tiananmen Square Incident (in 1989) as themes of dramas. It is not easy to criticize those incidents from social viewpoints, either. On the other hand, the government’s guidelines on anti-Japanese dramas are loose. Because of that, producers easily jump at them,” said an executive of a state-run media company.

The regulation on Japanese dramas resulted from the criticism made by actor Chen Daoming, 58, who had appeared in a drama aired in Japan.

Chen is also a member of China’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s advisory body on political affairs. After its meeting in March, he criticized some anti-Japanese dramas in a gathering of media representatives.

“If you depict solemn history in such (too unrealistic) ways, young people who do not know the times (of the war) will have the wrong impression,” he said.

The remark apparently meant that the scenarios, in which protagonists easily defeat Japanese soldiers, will distort the actual circumstances of the war, in which many Chinese died.

After the criticism, the Guangdong-based Southern Weekly newspaper carried special feature stories on the issue. Opinions supporting Chen’s criticism also spread on the Internet. As a result, the Communist Party and the government were forced to embark on regulating some anti-Japanese dramas.

Japanese soldiers, who are stereotyped in the TV dramas as cruel and inhuman, have been influencing the images the Chinese have of Japan. When anti-Japan demonstrations occurred in China in 2012 to protest the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, a young man was arrested on suspicion of hitting the owner of a Japanese car. It was later discovered that he had watched anti-Japanese dramas since childhood and, as a result, had nurtured a growing anger toward Japan.

“It is certain that the tense relations between China and Japan have increased the demand for anti-Japanese dramas. But, amid the growing commercialization, a situation in which bad dramas expel good ones has taken place,” said the renowned playwright Shi Hang, who has produced many dramas and plays.

However, it cannot be said that Chinese authorities embarked on regulating some anti-Japanese dramas from “diplomatic considerations” to soften the tense bilateral relations.

“The anti-Japanese war is a remarkable success of Chinese people’s resistance against invasion, and is a precious source of our creative activities in any era,” Wang Weiping, deputy director of the Department of Teleplay Administration of the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, was quoted by a Chinese newspaper as saying.

With this comment, Wang reveals a position that only the most unrealistic Japanese dramas will be regulated.

Meanwhile, The Asahi Shimbun interviewed 30 Internet users chosen at random to see what Chinese TV viewers are thinking about anti-Japanese dramas.

According to the survey, all the 30 respondents said that they have watched anti-Japanese dramas. Of these, 18 watched them for their entertainment value while one did so like it was a documentary.

Asked whether the dramas influenced their views of Japan, eight replied that the dramas did, while 13 responded that they didn’t. The remaining nine gave other answers or said that they didn’t know.

The 13 respondents, who replied that they were not influenced by the dramas, said that viewers have the ability to make their own judgments. However, one said, “When I was a child, I thought that Japanese people were inhuman.”

Of the 30 respondents, 20 supported imposing regulations on anti-Japanese dramas while three expressed opposition. Many of the 20 supporters complained about the quality of the dramas. “The dramas are making fools of viewers,” one said.

The three non-supporters criticized the government’s intervention into the content of the dramas.

“The government’s censorship (that does not allow broadcast stations to take up sensitive themes) has produced unrealistic dramas,” one non-supporter said.

(source: The Asahi Shimbum)

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