Hiphop x Asia: Hiphop Censorship in China
While underground hiphop culture has existed in China since the 1980s, the past few years could be seen as the true breakthrough of the genre and culture into the mainstream. With the record-breaking success of the hiphop talent TV show "The Rap of China" and the rise of Chinese artists in the Western world through outlets like 88rising, hiphop had made its way into the cultural consciousness of Chinese youth to a greater extent than ever before.
On January 19, 2018, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) announced a ban on tattoos and “hiphop culture” from appearing on television. Specifically, the ban required that “programs should not feature actors with tattoos [or depict] hiphop culture, subculture, or dispirited culture.”
The new rules were described as four “Dont’s:
“Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble.
Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar and obscene.
Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class.
Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals and problematic moral integrity.”
Within hours, the announcement had taken social media by storm, with users across the globe responding in surprise and protest. With the recent success of the rap-based talent show “The Rap of China” in 2017, many thought that Hiphop was finally finding its foothold in China, and few could imagine that the growing momentum was about to be completely stopped.
However, the ban isn’t as anomalous as it may initially seem - rather, it is only the culmination of a larger trend in Hiphop censorship that arguably began with Xi Jinping’s election in 2012. Since then, Xi has specifically targeted Hiphop culture on multiple occasions as part of his emphasis on controlling the arts and culture consumed in China. To explain this history, we’ve put together a timeline of the most important events illustrating the long and complicated relationship between Hiphop and the Chinese government.