The Economist magazine recently reported that “according to an order that took effect on Jan. 1st this year, China’s 34 satellite television stations must limit ‘excessive and vulgar content’”. The Economist noted that “compared with offerings in other countries, China’s television fare is already quite tame. Viewers looking for sex, nudity, gore or crude language will search in vain”. That sounds wonderfully unbelievable! But things are evidently getting tighter still: since Jan. 1st in the 7.30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Chinese “Gold Time” viewing slot there must now be two 30 min. news broadcasts and only 90 min of lighter shows. A much loved singing contest “Super Girl” has been axed. Chinese tastes are clearly being brought to heel!
I found this action from an atheist dictatorship very intriguing. Obviously the government was not acting out of any Christian moral imperative! In fact the article went on to make clear that the reason for this “entertainment” reduction was that the leadership considered the youth of China were being poisoned by such stuff, the poison being a foreign culture and ideology which would “westernise and divide” China. In other words, the government’s motive was totally political and anti-western.
Imagine this censorship happening in Britain! It would be an immediate end to David Cameron. The fact that it can actually happen in China indicates how strong a grip the government still has over the people, despite the enormous strides to free expression the Chinese people have taken. But that grip will soon loosen, and China may burst into its own “Arab Spring” with a new and more successful Tiananmen Square revolt. That is what the Chinese government most fear, and what makes this bit of news (in a year when Chinese leadership will change) all the more surprising. If China does have its “Arab Spring” then it can burst into “freedom” and enjoy as much sex and gore as it pleases – it will have become truly civilized! What an extraordinary choice we have here; political freedom and all the uncontrolled media flood of moral decadence or dictatorship with a realistic censorship on such decadence.
Though expressly political, I suspect that the authorities are also motivated by the fact that much of western behaviour as portrayed on television is decadent behaviour, and not in the long term in the interests of a vigorous state. Be that as it may, China, along with other large cultural areas of the world has come to identify the West with pleasure loving and loose behaviour. Western permissive liberalism is seen not only a political but a moral affront as well. We need to remember that, though embraced by many, such permissiveness is despised not only in China but by many across the world. There are many eyes that are not blinded to the fact that modern western “democracy” has some very dark features. It’s a sad reflection on our society when even atheistic communism has to repel its invidious influence. It’s even sadder when such permissiveness is actively associated with the concept of Christianity. But when we see the continuous moral decline on our own television screens, and see it hour after hour we should not be surprised.
It leaves me more than ever grateful for the advance of the gospel world-wide that western society by the grace of God provided over the last three centuries from the 1700s. As a consequence of that China will have its millions of Christians who will despise an evil television diet and will not need government legislation I’m thankful that genuine Christian mission continues to do the same today through so many faithful witnesses. But it means there is a continuing and desperate need for all Christians to propagate a genuine Christian message of a life of joy and peace through righteous and godly living.