Hiphop Censorship In China Timeline
November 15: Xi Jinping is elected as President of the People's Republic of China, succeeding Hu Jintao, who had ruled since 2002. His emphasis on government control of media was the catalyst for many of the changes in the Chinese government’s stance toward hiphop.
October 15: Xi Jinping speaks at the Beijing Forum on Literature in Art, discussing his views on contemporary chinese arts and culture (including hiphop), saying “contemporary arts must also take patriotism as a theme, leading the people to establish and maintain correct views of history, nationality, statehood, and culture… [now,] many art forms arise from overseas, such as hip-hop, breakdance, etc., but we we should only adopt them if the masses approve of them, while also endowing them with healthy, progressive content”.
August 10: China’s Ministry of Culture releases a blacklist of 120 songs that “trumpeted obscenity, violence, crime or harmed social morality”. Some of the artists banned included Yinsaner, an underground hip-hop crew from Beijing whose topics included social issues, and IN3, another Beijing group that had criticized China’s education system.
September: Members of IN3 spend 5 days in prison for playing a live rap show in Yunnan before being released without charge. Chen Haoran, a member of IN3, told the Guardian that “the police said they had been watching [IN3] for a long time and that the only reason they didn’t detain [them] was because we hadn’t played shows until then”.
February 2: Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of China, releases a 3 minute rap video explaining President Xi Jinping’s new political theory dubbed the “Four Comprehensives”. Xinhua described it as a “quirky, catchy song”. This is notable as it highlights the Chinese government’s complicated relationship with hiphop, on one hand suppressing the genre while simultaneously trying to use it to their advantage.
June 28: Tianfu Shi Bian, a government-backed rap group from Sichuan, releases a patriotic rap song called “This is China” for the Communist Youth League, a youth group run by the Communist Party of China. Tianfu Shi Bian, among other state-sponsored rap groups, has been used by the Chinese government to spread their propaganda among the Chinese youth.
May 3: CD Rev, a state-sponsored rap group, releases an anti-THAAD rap video on the official China.cn.org YouTube channel. THAAD is an American anti-ballistic missile defense system that the Chinese government had taken an explicitly disapproving stance towards.
June: Vice China premieres the two-part documentary, Rap in Southwest, exploring the burgeoning rap scene in China.
June 24: The Rap of China, a “The Voice”-style talent show, debuts on online video platform iQiyi. It is viewed over 1.3 billion times during the first month of the show.
October 26: The New York Times profiles the growth of rap in China with a focus on the city of Chengdu and the Higher Brothers.
December 30: GAI (Zhou Yan), a Chinese rapper, leads a chant of “Long Live the Motherland!” in Chinese. It appears to be an attempt at demonstrating his alignment with Chinese government values.
January 5: PG One (Wang Hao), joint winner of The Rap in China, was forced to apologize for using the word “bitch” in his 2015 song “Christmas Eve,” and he blamed his use of the word on being “deeply influenced by black music” and not having “a correct understanding of the core values of hiphop culture”. Critics of PG One argued that his lyrics were insulting to women and encouraged the use of recreational drugs.
January 18: GAI (Zhou Yan), a Chinese rapper, was abruptly removed from the Hunan province’s hit reality TV talent show “Singer”. No official statement was given as to why he suddenly left the show.
January 19: The director of President Xi’s publicity department, Gao Changli, officially announces the ban of tattoos and “Hiphop Culture” from television due to a lack of moral congruity with the party. Li Yijie, the lead member of government-backed rap group CD Rev, argues that the genre isn’t banned as a whole but that “some institutions, firms, TV stations and the public had lost confidence in hiphop”.