Censorship

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Censorship
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The People's Republic of China 🇨🇳 (commonly referred as "China" or "mainland China") is an East Asian country which practices Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, with some minorities practicing Christianity and Islam.

See Hong Kong for censorship there.

General censorship[]

Its censorship system is the most visible for the following factors:

  • China is a big communist country and export market, so the producers want their works to make it there as they can,
  • China is very authoritarian and paternalistic and thus, the government has a lot of power and inclination to ban anything it deems having a bad influence on the people

Media censorhip in mainland China is generally handed by the National Radio and Television Administrattion (NRTA), with a strict pass-fail rating system similar to the Hays Code: either the film is appropriate for all ages, or is rejected, without any ratings inbetween. Like many other countries, the censor board's failure to rate a film equals to a ban. The criteria for passing often are arbitrary, vague or secret, so is not easy to determine in advance what will pass muster, fostering an industry of self-censorship. However, this system does little to stop domestic consumption of foreign works in China, due to piracy being huge in the country, whcih cannot be prevented mostly. The bans are seldom enfoced and banned works can be bought at flea markets and experience a rising popularity due to a Streisand effect.

Any work criticizing the government, makes fun of China or the China as whole or reference the most unpleasant events in China's history (such as the ones involving the Communist Party of China, as well as the Second Sino-Japanese War) or even risk inciting a revolution that could lead to the overthrow of the Communist government in favor of democracy is banned as well.

Any work created by supporters of Tibet, Hong Kong or Taiwan independence might be banned. Only mentioning these territories, even non-provocatively, is a warrant to cause the CCP to threaten to stop doing business with the offending third party. With China's massive population and growing economy, foreign media producers wanting a piece of massive official market in China became increasingly willing to censor or edit their own works seeking approval of the Chinese censorship board. The rules apply both to domestic and foreign media, with local producers getting the extra burden of constant executive meddling at every stage of production, consequently, making Chinese productions very linear and watered-down.

Some media supposed to be banned in China are not banned at all, usually due to mistranslations courtesy of lack of independent verification and language barrier between China and the West.

This censorship policy only applies in mainland China. Hong Kong and Macau, being Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic, are not governed by this scheme; having their own, independent rating systems, explaining how some works can be shown in Hong Kong but not in the mainland. However, in the 2020s, in Hong Kong, China started to take more control of free speech and expression within the region, 30 years ahead of the agreement to allow Hong Kong to self-govern until 2047.

Movie censorship[]

China's media legislation is also known for its quotas of foreign films allowed to be screened in the country per year as means of protectionism.

China automatically "bans", that is, puts a quota, on all non-Chinese movies, only giving special permits for a fixed number of foreign films shown per year. In theory, this protects their domestic film industry from bigger-budget foreign competition, but in practice, it has spawned a massive and well-established market for pirated foreing moves. China also uses the ban to pressure Hollywood studios to include favorable depictions of the country in films and discourage anything portraying the nation in a bad light. PEN America has published a report on the pervasive influence the Chinese government has come to have on Hollywood studios seeking to circumvent this. Some individual cinema managers will have unofficial ratings for films which could otherwise pass, but these are relatively rare and separate from government sanctioning.

  • Temptress Moon was promoted in the United States as "a seductive new film so provocative it was banned in its own country". As pointed out by a writer to Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man column, "considering that its own country is China, that's not a big deal".
  • Most of Zhang Yimou's films. To Live has never been shown in China, due to negative portrayals of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution; Said film also got Zhang himself banned from making films for two years. Other of his films such as Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern were released after serving a couple of years in the Chinese film jail.

Any discussion about the oppression of the Tibetans or the Tiananmen Square masscre (if it is in media or not) is a warrant for an arrest and scrutiny by the Chinese government. The government-approved textbooks will only give them cursory mentions if at all. Among films banned for addressing these topics:

  • Seven Years in Tibet is banned, as well the two stars, Brad Pitt and David Thewlis. The director Jean-Jacques Arnaud was banned as well, but has since invited to make The Wolf Totem, a movie about Inner Mongolian culture.
  • Kundun, another film with the Dalai Lama, is also banned from China, as were director Martin Scorsese and the late writer Melissa Mathison. Besides of that, it was a box office bomb, putting Disney in hot water with China regarding Mulan.
  • While The Wolf Totem film was not banned, The book would have been banned, as its author Jiang Rong was arrested and imprisoned due to his participation in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, which is why he remained reclusive despite his novel's success.
  • Brokeback Mountain - while this movie is banned in China for its depiction of homosexuality, China celbrated Ang Lee's winning of an Oscar for said movie as a triumph for Chinese people, even though Ang Lee is from Taiwan.

Any movie directed by Chloé Zhao, including Nomadland has been expunged by the Chinese governemnt after a 2013 interview where she stated that China "is a place where there are lies everywhere".

  • Ten Years - this Hong Kong film is believed to be banned in China for its bleak depiction of Hoing Kong under Beijing's control. The broadcast of the 35th Hong Kong Film Award, where this film was honored for best film, was also banned in mainland China for the same reason.
  • Trivisa - This Hong Kong film is believed to be banned in China because Jevons Au (who directed Ten Years) is one of the three directors in this film. Mentions of the film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, at which it won five awards including Best Picture, were also censored in mainland China
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End can be shown in China only if every scene featuring Sao Feng is edited or modified to remove him, as said character is deemed as "negative portrayal" of the Chinese.
  • Over the Hedge is banned in China due to its "deception of a free world" and for showing deaths of animals on-screen.
  • The Dark Knight - Warner Bros refudet this movie to be screened in China due to its portrayal of the Chinese criminal accountant Lau and implying that Hong Kong police are corrupt, for fear of offending the Chinese. However, is one of the most popular bootleg DVD titles in China.
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - banned for depicting China as having "secret societies".
  • Mission: Impossible III - the movie gave concerns to the government, as it depicts the Chinese police as incompetent and shows poor living conditions in Chinese villages, as well one scene where graffiti advertising a document forgery service (which is a big business in China) can be glimpsed. However, it was re-included in the Warner Home Video DVD release.
  • Raise the Red Lantern - this film was banned in China, until it helped raise their tourism.

It is commonly believed that China bans every film concerning time travel, as Chinese culture holds its ancestors in high regard that it will not allow depicing them that will be somewhat innacurate. Actually they don't ban it outright, but they have a guideline disencouraging it, including a reccomendation that filmmakers no longer adapt the Four Great Classical Novels either.

  • Avatar - While it was released in China, its 2D version was pulled quickly from cinemas afterwards, even if was the most popular film shown in China ever. It was rumoured that this was because the film's message could inspire oppressed Chinese citizens, but in part was because it was eating into the profit margin of a state-funded biopic of Confucius that was running concurrently. The Chinese government never had a problem with the 3D version, though.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey - while not banned, the studio did not even released the film there, knowing that it would not get past the censor board.
  • Sausage Party - this film was not released in China for the same reasons as Deadpool: raunchy, profane, violent and animated. Between the inevitable censorship and the equally inevitable angry parents taking their kids to see it, it was deemed safer to not release the film at all.
  • Pixels - A scene showing the aliens blowing a hole in the Great Wall of China was removed out of fears that the movie could get banned.
  • Crimson Peak - not released in China due to censorship guidelines discouraging films promoting "cults or superstition", which extends also to ghosts and supernatural beings depicted in realistic environments (except stories based on Chinese mythology, which are exempt from this).
  • Deadpool - not released in China, as the producers claimed it would been impossible to cut all the violence, sex and profanities ending up with anything resemblign a coherent film.
  • Deadpool 2 - This movie was also not released for the same reason above. However, Once Upon a Deadpool was mainly done to secure a release in China. It was released there on 25 January 2019.
  • Christopher Robin - this movie was not released due to falling outside of the quota on foreign film. Many speculate that the ban is partially due to the censorship of the comparisons of Winnie-the-Pooh and Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping.
  • Monster Hunter - banned after being flooded with negative reviews after a Chinese character made a pun about "Chi-knees", reminescent of the "Dirty Knees" schoolyard rhyme used by Americans to insult Chinese and Japanese immigrants.
  • Fight Club had its ending completely removed, replaced with a caption which states that the police successfully intervened and arrested everyone. Chuck Palahniuk, the writer of the novel Fight Club mocked the decision, but later went on to say that ironically was closer to the book's version of events.
  • The first three films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Four series of films were banned for different reasons:
    • Black Widow - when the film was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the filmmakers reshot the film to make its "girl power" message a bit more overt. When the film was finally released, it was banned because China was cracking down everything that promoted radical feminism, based on their observations of the ideology's destabilizing effect on Western countries.
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - despite having all the earmarks for appealing to a Chinese audience, early screenings of the film in China was panned by movie-goers who could clearly see the film was made to pander to them, and that Chinese censors were familiar with the source material and figured that, even though the film used positive stereotypes about Asians, they were still stereotypes which only applied to Asian-Americans rather than authentic Asians, combined with the immense dislike for lead actor Simu Liu by the mainland Chinese audiences.
    • Eternals - this film was banned because it was directed by Chloe Zhao, who, as stated above, had her work expunged in retaliation for her critical opinion of the Chinese Communist Party.
    • As Bob Chipman discussed in his video about Onward's lesbian character, according to him, it is inaccurate to blame China for American movies having only token-level LGBT representation. China actually has a long history of homosexual characters and the background lesbian kiss in The Rise of Skywalker was actually left in the Chinese release without any controversy, He also says that while China has rules about what can be put in movies, they tend to enforce those rules arbitrarily and be more lenient towards Chinese films than foreign ones. This gives them more leverage at the negotiation table.
    • China is not fond of non-Chinese animation which is set in or depicts China. Exceptions are:
      • Mulan (1998) - this Disney film saw a limited release in spite of predictions that it would be banned in retaliation for Disney financing Kundun. The Chinese dub even had Jackie Chan as the voice of Li Shang.
      • Kung Fu Panda - this Dreamworks film saw grat critical acclaim in China, leading the Chinese to wonder why they couldn't have made a movie like that themselves (The main reason for that is that traditional values in Confucianism are so strict in terms of avoiding conflict, in particular with one's elders, that many of the driving conflicts in the film wold be inacceptable in China). The Chinese had this chance by co-producing Kung Fu Panda 3.
      • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat was dubbed and aired by CCTV with no issues

While films depicting ghosts are often restricted due to the importance of ghosts in Chinese religion, Coco was an exception due to its emphasis on honoring one's ancestors and the similarities between Dia de los Muertos and Chinese traditions.

TV censorship[]

  • The South Park episode "Band in China" mocked Chinese censorship standards, and in response, the Chinese government banned the series from airing there. Said episode was a critique of Hollywood for watering down their films to appease the Chinese government, featuring jabs at the Winnie the Pooh ban, Chinese work camps and the country's organ harvesting. The show creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's response was:
    • "Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn't look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?" (in the very next episode, which doubles as a tirade, Randy Marsh shouts "F**k the Chinese government!".
  • Yaoi anime were suppressed, banned and regulated in mainland China (and to a certain extent, to Hong Kong) for fears that "reading too much [yaoi] material would change [girls'] sexual orientation somehow".
  • Death Note was banned in China due to allegations of the government that it incited anarchy and insubordination, after some kids and teens were caught using ripoff notebooks to make hit lists. However, it was dubbed in Cantonese and aired in Hong Kong.
  • Code Geass was once banned in China for its themes of rebellion and dignity of oppressed minorities. The second season, Code Geass R2: Lelouch of the Rebellion portrays China as a nation of starving citizens oppressed by a group of power-hungry creeps using the 12-year-old heir to the throne as their puppet (even that is a reference to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms) before the Japanese led by Zero, a Britannian prince, incite a revolution to overthrow them, which did not help matters. Allegedly, the real reason it got banned was because of the nudity scenes. However, the ban on the anime was lifted in 2008.
  • In 2015, the Chinese goverment started to cracking down on violent anime and manga both in print and the internet. These include Blood-C, Psycho-Pass, Attack on Titan, High School Of The Dead, Tokyo Ghoul, Deadman Wonderland, Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, among others.
  • My Hero Academia was banned preceded by backlash from local viewers after it was leaked that an evil scientist previously know as the Doctor's real name would be "Maruta Shiga", as "Maruta" was the Japanese code name for human experimentation conducted during Unit 731 during World War II, opening some old wounds for the Chinese government. Kohei Morikoshi - the author - and the publisher issued an apology and promised to change the name, but the damage was already done.
  • Twin Princess of Wonder Planet - The first 26 episodes of this anime were dubbed in Chinese under the name of "Mysterious Planet Twin Princesses" (神秘星球孪生公主) and were aired in CCTV-14 on 27 March 2007, but was disguised as Chinese cartoon in order to get a primetime airslot (5PM-8PM), violating Chinese rule enforced in 2006, in where only Chinese programming were aired on primetime airslot. When someone pointed out that the anime is Japanese, CCTV took notice of the fact to realize that they've got "fooled", taking down the anime series from their channel one month later.
  • Code Lyoko - Just like the Twin Princess of Wonder Planet example mentioned above, this animated series was once aired in China and only the first two seasons were aired before it was banned permanently from aired Chinese televisions ever again due to it disguised as Chinese animation in order to get a primetime slot.
  • Sword Art Online - The second season was banned due to differing regulators and how a cut version was available. However, the first season, the movie and the third season were not banned.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX and Slow Start were banned from Chinese streaming service iQiyi after being reported to the Chinese Ministry of Cultural Affairs. A heated argument between fans of DARLING and Violet Evergarden led to the formed being reported for immorality, with Slow Start being banned as well as well due to being produced by A-1 Pictures.
  • KonoSuba has been banned from Chinese streaming sites owing to one of the main characters being voiced by Ai Kayano, who tweeted about Yasukuni Shrine (a shrine that reveres soldiers who fought for Japan, including Imperial soldiers who commited historical recorded atrocities such as the Nanking Massacre and Unit 731) in February 2021.
  • Beryl and Sapphire - Numerous episodes were kept off the shelf due to depictions of homosexuality.
  • Super Wings - similar to the Chinese ban on South Park, since early 2021, the videos of Super Wings were taken down from Chinese video websites due to errors found in the map of China, resulting into the ban of the series from CCTV online video streaming service and information about the series were restricted in Chinese internet.
  • Rabbit Kuang Kuang - currently banned on Chinese video websites due to reference a few other forbidden topics such as the 2008 Chinese milk scandal and the New Campus of Hebei University "10.16" Traffic Accident Escape Case (and its catchphrase delivered by the perpetrator, "My dad is Li Gang", parodied as "My dad is Tiger Gang").
  • Go Princess Go - This series ended to be banned, with the version allowed missing more than a third of the original. The series was banned because is about a man who ends in a woman's body and falls in love with his/her husband, as well dealing with Time Travel, something that the censors would not accept in the early 2000s.
  • Towards The Republic - its last episode was censored because it ended with a speech delivered by Sun Yat-sen about the merits of democracy. However, it was unbanned after internet release.
  • On The Late Show, Craig Ferguson revealed an email he received claiming that his program's internet broadcasts were banned in China. He jokingly took this as a threat, saying that "double entendres and fart jokes are too threreatening to the might Chinese Regime", and lamented that they would miss his guest star for the evening, Morgan Freeman.
  • Anderson Cooper 360 - Portions of the show's broadcast aired from 2 May 2012 onwards on CNN International were blacked out in China when it discussed developments with political activist Chen Guangcheng, particularly when alleged threats made towards Chen and his family by Chinese government were mentioned.
  • The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice were banned from Chinese video services as of April 2014 for unspecified reasons.
  • Agent Carter and Empire were removed from Chinese streaming sites by order of the State General Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in January 2015 due to a new regulation which states that a show's entire first season must be submitted to the government to be reviewed before broacasting. The previous regulation only required a show to be approved on an episode-by-episode basis.
  • Doctor Who was previously banned due to its time travel theme; as stated under Movie Censorship, the Chinese government frowns upon positive portrayals of time travel or "inaccurate" depictions of the past. The government would not like people getting the impression thet the pre-Communist era, in particular a monarchy, is preferable. In 2017, BBC Worldwide signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shanghai Media Group Pictures making the revival series, Torchwood and Class available in Mainland China, with first refusal for four series after Series 11 in the event they were commissioned

Many western dramas and tokusatsu series were taken down in 2017 possibly due to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It seems a ban is now in place.

  • Last Week Tonight wit John Oliver was banned on Chinese social media after a segment critical of Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping.
  • In September 2021, Ultraman Tiga and several anime were taken down from all video platforms without explanation. It is unknown why this was done, especially since the Ultraman series has more violent and darker shows than Tiga that are still up. However, Tiga is the most popular Ultraman show in China with the younger generation, with some theorizing that it may have been done to send a message that the Communist Party could ban anything if it wanted too. If that is the case, it backfired due to immense backlash, and Tiga was shortly unbanned even if some episodes are missing.
  • On 7 January 2016, Netflix made a surprise announcement that they have become available globally, and only four countries remaining can't get them. Three of the countries (Syria, Crimea, and North Korea) remained blocked due to US embargoes. The fourth is China, although Netflix is working on it.
  • The Simpsons - The episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan", where the family visits China, is banned in China because of the unfavourable reference to Mao Zedong (Homer sees his body displayed in a mausoleum and says "He's olike a little angel who killed 50 million people."), scenes parodying the Tiananmen Square Massacre (such as when Selma stands before a Chinese tank) and a Chinese government official saying "Well, Tibet used to be pretty independent."
  • Bojack Horseman was at least pulled from Netflix due to "adjustments needing to be made to the content".
  • While Peppa Pig is not banned, considering the big popularity in China, despite claims to the contrary, Douyin (the Chinese edition of TikTok) banned mature videos featuring Peppa Pig, not wanting to endorse a popular gangster interpretation of her, especially to child audiences.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra were not ever been released in China, probably due to the Airbenders being an allegory to the oppression of Tibet and the Earth Kingdom (at least in the first series) being an allegory of China in an ancient sense as well to its modern police state. Legend of Korra deals more with the politics and democratization of the world[Notes 1], which is also a sticking point. Neither the movie has never given a Chinese release. This is part of why it is assumed that the upcoming adaptation is going to be a TV show on Netflix rather than another movie because with the budget it would take to do a movie properly, it would have to come out in China to make its money back.

Online censorship in mainland China[]

The Internet in the People's Republic of China mainland is heavily regulated, but not in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan being a completely different entity (Republic of China) is also not blocked.

Chinese Internet censorship is famous for its "Great Firewall", which filters all traffic through the country and blocks "subversive" or "objectionable" sites. Of course, the Chinese tend to know how to work around this.

Part of the problem is ostensibly easy transfer of information; social network sites like Facebook have been used to coordinate protests and political action the government does not like. But there are Chinese social network sites, search engines, and video sharing sites, which presumably have an easier time monitoring their users and blocking sensitive content.

One way to circumvent the ban is going through a Hong Kong search engine, including Hong Kong's version of Google and Yahoo search, which can be probably accessed through a Chinese hotel's internet connection. Hong Kong is not affected by the Great Firewall, but their sites might have terms of service that prohibit access to certain content from certain regions - which can be bypassed by registering a US account and changing the browser's region.

The ISPs are state-owned enterprises, which means they can control what their customers can see.

Frequently censored words[]

These keywords are affected by the "Great Firewall"; the keywords below are filtered by Chinese ISPs:

  • 民主 (democracy)
  • 天安门母亲 (Tiananmen Mothers)
  • 王丹 (Wang Dan)
  • 法轮功 (Falun Gong), or 法轮 or 轮功
  • 美国之音 (Voice of America)
  • freenet

Current blocked sites[]

  • Geocities
  • Blogger (but not blogger.com)
  • Technorati (blog search engine)
  • Zoneedit.com
  • DeviantArt (between 2016 and 2018)
  • Yahoo Hong Kong
  • Tumblr
  • The Chinese Wikipedia
  • BBC News
  • CNN
  • New York Times
  • LiveJournal
  • Tvtropes.org
  • Twitch (as of 2018)
  • Some Chinese manga websites often restrict access to the Ecchi genre for local IP addresses
  • On 5 February 2021, illegal Chinese streaming website "House of Anime" (动漫之家) was banned and fined 3 million Yuan for streaming illegal anime (banned in China) containing content such as gore and sexually suggestive imagery.
  • While most video sharing sites, Youtube among these, everything other than video servers is unblocked on certain college campuses though. However, 4chan is not blocked.
  • Wikipedia alternates beween full ban and ban of topics such as Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It's more or less un-banned in English since 2013, but Chinese-language Wikipedias are completely blocked outside universities, which charge students for access.
  • In July 2009, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology encouraged computer manufacturers to include a censoring software called "Green Dam Youth Escort", either pre-installed or on CD, with every computer sold in China. The idea was to help "build a healthy and harmonious online environment that does not poison young people's minds." Of course, it was plagued by the Scunthorpe Problem in its poorly-written pornography filter (which was so sensitive that it even blocked pictures of Garfield and pigs, as they have large area of skin tones, and thus appear to be pornography), a password system that was so broken that it could be "cracked by elementary school students," and alleged plagiarism of blacklists and open source code from other software. The Internet being what it is, Green Dam was also not immune to Moe Anthropomorphism; she even has her very own doujinshi game.
  • Chinese video streaming website Billibilli have their rules called "Creative Treaty" for its users. This mean that not only you must comply with the laws and rules of China there, but you most not oppose (or mock, make fun of) the "one country, two systems" policy, which refers to China's control of Hong Kong and Macau. This even includes rules against Nazi symbols and a rule that forbids mature videos that can attract young kids and people.
  • hololive is considered a hot button topic in China that mentions of them are censored and vilified.
    • In September 2020, a couple of virtual YouTubers, Haato Akai and Coco Kiryuu, signed onto the aforementioned talent agency, had their Billibilli channels banned due to mentions of Taiwan in their streams. Mounting toxicity on their YouTube streams over the next few days led to both Haato and Coco getting suspended for 3 weeks from 28 September 2020. The continued vitriol against hololive in China led to the dissolution of the hololive CN branch with the Chinese talents "graduating" (that is, retiring). The effects of this incident lasted long, with hololive as a whole losing at least one business opportunity by 2021 because of it, and the company mantained a strict "no collabs" ban for Coco so the Chinese bots that harassed her on a daily basis did not end up on other channels' chats.
    • This was taken to the extreme to where because Cover is nowadays considered persona non grata in China, any cameo any hololive member makes on any media is edited out when streamed on Billibilli, for instance, the Fubuki and Matsuri 's cameos in The Detective is Already Dead and the ending of The Great Jahy Will Be Not Defeated! which is sung by Nene, Aqua and Subaru.
  • A few months after the aforementioned Taiwan-related hololive ban, BilliBilli put out a slew of new website rules directed against virtual streamers, running the gamut from anything which qualifies off-limits content on just about any other website to one humorously specific clause against the furry fandom. Considering how vague a lot of the new rules are, the intent is likely to simply ban virtual streamers in general to prevent "dissent", as mentioning hololive at all continues to be a taboo subject on the website.

Formerly blocked sites[]

  • PHP.net: possibly blocked by China Telecom
  • FreeBSD.org: blocked in December 2005-- release [1]
  • Google: Google in China
  • *.sourceforge.net (but not the front page)

Video game censorship[]

Due to the large amount of video game piracy in China, many video games are never officially released or localized in China, and translations often are done by fan translation groups. With the rise of online digital distribution platforms, such as Steam, many of the supposedly banned games can be bought in China. in 2019, Valve was in talks of launching a Chinese version of Steam in compliance with Chinese video gaming legislation, featuring only censored games, but has no plans to block the access ofthe global version of Steam in China.

Mainland China enforced a near-total ban on video game consoles in 2000, because the government had little control over what was released on them. It was lifted in 2015, allowing the PS4 and the Switch to be released in mainland China.

  • Winnie the Pooh's chinese name "小熊维尼" was banned in video games such as World of Warcraft, Player Unknowns Battlegrounds, Arena of Valor and Overwatch, resulting into a instaban if typed on chat. As a side effect of this, some players who use this advantage to troll people by forcing them to type the Pooh Bear word just for fun and trolling only, without knowing that the autoban was enforced by "law".
  • Kingdom Hearts III had the Pooh Bear blurred in white at one Weibo post coverage of the game. However, he wasn't actually censored in the same way in-game.
  • Hearts of Iron series - these games were banned in China due to its depiction of a fragmented nation split into various warlord factions in the main campaign, beginning on New Year's Day 1936, as well for having Tibet depicted as independent state under the rule of the Lamas. A mod featuring an unified China was approved by the Chinese censors.
  • Many historical-based strategy games such as Age of Empires, Total War and Civilization avoid having civilizations such as the Tibetans and the Uighurs as playable factions to avoid the above-mentioned trend.
  • Terranigma - this game was banned for its positive depiction of the Dalai Lama (Lord Kumari).
  • Civilization IV - The Chinese version had Mao Zedong replaced by Emperor Tang Taizong as one of the leaders of China due to political sensivities.
  • In a twist of irony, in Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4, Tibet is a playable faction and neither game is banned in China. A plausible reason is that the games feature historical kingdoms of Tibet such as Yarlung and Guge, while the Chinese censors are only concerned with depictions of Tibet during the 20th century.
  • Despite some Command & Conquer games having been banned in China, this did not meant that these are some of the most played and modded games in the Middle Kingdom:
    • Commander & Conquer Generals - Zero Hour expansion was banned for allegedly smearing China and the People's Liberation Army, despite being an heroic (yet brutal, opressive and prone to use nukes and napalm to obliterate anything) faction aside from the USA. This relates with the depiction of a GLA nuclear attack in Tiananmen Square in the beginning of the Chinese Campaign in the original game as well in the third Chinese mission, where the objective is to destroy the Three-Gorges Dam to drown the GLA, which hits close home in mainland China, as well how players can play foreign factions against the Chinese Army depicted in the game.
    • Some copies of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 had the campaign cutscenes abridged, even though the in-game voices are without subtitles. It turned out that only pirated versions had this effect, due to the need to compress the game into one disc.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - This game is popular in China despite being banned, due to China not being big on either the Soviet Union during the Cold War or Japan in various other conflicts.
    • The original Command & Conquer: Red Alert however, was not banned, despite its heavy anti-Soviet themes and still is one of the most popular video games in China.
  • I.G.I.-2 Covert Strike - This game was banned for "defaming a national character" months after initially passing the censorship board - that is, for having a chinese general as an homicidal maniac. It later turned out that the publisher sent to the censors an incomplete version of the game that omitted the China-set levels, in order to elude the ban.
  • People's General - This game never had an official release in Chian due to its China Takes Over the World campaign, where the Chinese force invade Russia and Taiwan, drawing the United States into World War III.
  • P.T.O. - The third entry of the franchise was never released outside of Japan, due to the cancellation of an attempt of translating the game into Chinese being cancelled after the Chinese localization staff quitted to protest the ability offered by the game to play as Japanese forces in the Second Sino-Japanese War, which in China is a highly sensitive topic. As a consequence, the fourth entry of the franchise removed all battles set in China.
  • Battlefield 4 -This game was reported by news reports in China to be banned for allegedly discrediting China's national image and presenting a threat to national security as a "cultural invasion", with many sites in China banning "Battlefield 4" as a keyword. However, since day 1 the game is completely playable in China. Sale of the game on retail plaforms is prohibited, but Origin can still be downloaded without a VPN and Battlefield 4 can be bought and downloaded through it. A few years later, the ban on the game has been lifted.

Chinese censorship screen of Devotion. It translates as "According to the related laws, this software will not run in your country. Thank you for your understanding and co-operation."

  • Devotion - This game by Red Candle Games was banned due to a placeholder image found in the game referencing Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, compared to Winnie the Pooh. The game, was released on Steam in February 2019. When nationalistic Chinese netizens found out the placeholder art, they began review bombing Devotion and then, made claims that the plot and other references were expressions of anti-mainland China sentiment by the Taiwanese developers. The situation made Red Candle remove the game from Steam and every mention of it on its official site, and the Chinese publisher had its license revoked. Since 15 March 2021, Red Candle launched its own storefront to sell the game on, but the re-release of the game is region-locked from China, meaning that if a Chinese user tries to play the game, it will result a Chinese warning message stating that the game is prohibited by law.
  • In October 2019, Blizzard Entertainment was the target of boycott calls, after it suspended professiona Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung for 12 months for "violating official competiton rules", which some critics speculated as politically-driven due to Chung being a vocal supporter of the Hong Kong protests. This was seen as pandering to the lucrative Chinese market by Blizzard, even if the latter did not took direct orders from the Great Firewall.
  • Plague Inc. was removed from Steam and all app stores in the Chinese market, after a few weeks of increases in the playebase, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic originated in the country.
  • Imports and livestreams of Animal Crossing_New Orizons were banned after Hong Kong protestors discovered that they could use the in-game communication system to criticise the government and spread their views uncensored. Even if the official reason given by the government was due to Wisp the ghost being in the game, causing some great concern with game modding community in China, fearing that any user-created digital content would require approval by the state to modders (to prevent spreading of dissent) and many Chinese modders are hosted in the Steam Workshop (although since circa 2018, non-VPN Chinese network access ban the community part of the global version of Steam, but not the store and the client page).
  • In many stores, game publishers need to have a special license from the Chinese govenrment to be allowed to publish games in China, otherwise, people would get a message of "your game was approved for the store, but its not allowed in China".
  • Any domestic-made game featuring Ai Kayano, notably Arknights, Azur Lane and Girls Frontline, as voice actress were forced to remove her voice clips due to her tweet about "nice air" in Yasukuni Shrine in February 2021, by pressure of netizens.
  • Cytus II - this game was briefly pulled from Chinese app markets in July 2020 due to ICE, one of the music artists employed with the developer Rayark, produced a song with a hidden "Free Hong Kong" message in Morse code, even though the song was made as personal work rather than as part of any Rayark game. The game would later be unbanned in China, but with some of his songs removed, and ICE resigned from Rayark to take the heat off of them.
  • Due to China's increasingly strict censorship of non-conservative values in 2021, even to the extent to censor anything that depicts men as not being manly enough in extension to the LGBT ban, approval of both foreign and domestic video games is practically frozen in mid 2021 and continues to be so in early 2022.

Censorship of other material[]

A meme comparing Xi Jinping and Barack Obama to Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger respectively, which contributed to the banning of Winnie-the-Pooh in mainland China.

All Winnie-the-Pooh works are banned as of 2017 after memes comparing Pooh to Xi Jinping circulated widely across the Chinese internet and abroad. Importation of Winnie-the-Pooh material to mainland China was outlawed. The public display of Winnie-the-Pooh in China was outlawed, which led to the film Christopher Robin being banned there.

What started as Chinese president Xi Jinping and former US president Barack Obama's meeting in 2013 being compared to a image of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger walking together, evolved into the President of China being compared to the yellow teddy bear for his various actions, as a running joke. Since 2017-2018, online references to Pooh Bear are often blocked in Chinese internet. Unfortunately, to netizens of other countries outside of Mainland China where jokes are a major part of political discussion, this came off as Chinese president Xi being thin-skinned, fueling memers to cause an explosion of content for what was once a minor meme. However, this often gets misunderstood as Winnie the Pooh itself being banned in China, which is not the case, as a Winnie the Pooh ride exist in Shanghai Disneyland, and the ordinary context (if is non-political context with president Xi) were still allowed.

Book censorship[]

  • Chung Kuo series - This series of books, written by David Wingrove, is banned in China for portraying a bleak Chinese future where society went back to the Warlords era.
  • Blazac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - This book about the Cultural Revolution, persecution of scholars and book burning, was banned. Since this is one of the books studied in Hong Kong international schools, there have been cases of students having their copies unexpectedly confiscated.
  • Surprisingly, contrary to what most might expect, 1984 is readily available.
  • Wild Swans - This story about Jung Chang's family's history and sufferings they endured during the Cultural Revolution, is banned.
  • The Last Days of Old Beijing - This book about the three years Michal Meyer spent living in one of the hutongs while teaching English, was banned for five years, possibly for depicting the lives of poor residents struggling to save their historic neighborhoods from urban renewal projects spearheaded by corrupt officials for their developer friends. Apparently, the real reason is that it shows mainland China and Taiwan in different colors on a map in the frontispiece. Five years after its publication in the United States, the ban was lifted and Meyer was sent on a book tour by his Chinese publisher. By his count,the Chinese edition still cut almost a page's worth of passages. Meyer himself said "Better 400 pages of book than no book at all. In China you take what you can get".
  • Any travel book centered around Taiwan or Tibet, listing their country as separate from China on the map or mentioning the Dalai Lama, is banned in China, extending to books focused on the mainland, but listing either country as separate.
  • Green Eggs and Ham - This Dr. Seuss book was outlawed in 1965, claiming it portrayed early Marxism. However, the ban was lifted in 1991 and the book was released in simplified Chinese afterwards.
  • In the 1930s, before the Communists took over China, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was banned for representing civilized animals. The censors deemed that presenting animals as equal to humans was a bad message to give impressionable children
  • The novel Long Live The Emperor cannot be mentioned, as, according to a defector, "Long live" (Wansui) is considered be "forever". While the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping is paramount leader forever due to him having removed the term limits on the Chinese president, also no term limits on the CCP general secretary, no one is allowed to talk about that.
  • As Maoist China was staunchly atheist, The Bible was banned along all foreign religion during his reign. Even if the Chinese Communist Party still has an antipathy towards organized religion (except Taoism), since the 1990s they became to a certain degree tolerant of Christianity and Judaism being practiced.
  • Various works written by Shen Congwen in 1902 were "Denounced by the Communists and Nationalists alike, Mr. Shen saw his writings banned in Taiwan, while mainland China publishing houses burned his books and destroyed printing plates for his novels. .... So successful was the effort to erase Mr. Shen's name from the modern literary record that few younger Chinese today recognize his name, much less the breadth of his work. Only since 1978 has the Chinese Government reissued selections of his writings, although in editions of only a few thousand copies.... In China, his passing was unreported." His works were unbanned in 1988.
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover - the Chinese translation of this novel by Rao Shu-yi was denied open publication by China's Central Bureau in 1936, and it ordered booksellers to stop advertising and selling the novel.
  • Xing Fengsu (Sexual Customs) - this book was banned in 1989 for insulting Islam.
  • Zhuan Falun - this spiritual book by Li Hongzhi was banned in mainland China on the basis of being outside of the communist apparatus, according to Stephen Chan writing in Global Society, an international relations journal.
  • Beijing Coma - this novel by Ma Jian was banned in mainland China.
  • Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 - this non-fiction book by Yang Jisheng, while was published in Hong Kong, it was banned in mainland China.
  • Big River, Big Sea – Untold Stories of 1949 - this non-fiction book by Lung Ying-tai, which sold over 100,000 copies in Taiwan and 10,000 in Hong Kong in its first month of release, had discussion of her work banned in mainland China following the book launch.
  • The Sassoon Files - this role-playing game adventure book supplement for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game set in 1920s Shanghai, had all copies printed and due to ship out were ordered to be destroyed by the Government of China for unspecified reasons.

Manga censorship[]

  • Yaoi manga were suppressed, banned and regulated in mainland China (and to a certain extent, to Hong Kong) for fears that "reading too much [yaoi] material would change [girls'] sexual orientation somehow". However, a couple of Yaoi magazines such as Bolo and 801 Kano are still being published as special issues of other publications.
  • My Hero Academia was banned preceded by backlash from local readers after it was leaked that an evil scientist previously know as the Doctor's real name would be "Maruta Shiga", as "Maruta" was the Japanese code name for human experimentation conducted during Unit 731 during World War II, opening some old wounds for the Chinese government. Kohei Morikoshi - the author - and the publisher issued an apology and promised to change the name, but the damage was already done.

Notes[]

  1. One of the characters, Suyin, is an avowed republican and the Earth Queen straight-up gets murdered in the third season by a group of anarchists. There's no way the Chinese government would allow a show with their fantastical equivalent's leader getting brutually murdered past the censors.
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