During the last few months, entertainment stars have become one of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) most powerful weapons to attack Taiwan and generate a collective sentiment against its independence.
The tension between the two nations has grown out of all proportion. Especially after the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan and President Joe Biden’s public comments suggesting that his country is prepared to defend Taiwan “militarily.”
Historically, the CCP has sought to generate a single mindset on central or sensitive issues to perpetuate its power. To achieve this purpose, it has implemented all kinds of censorship, indoctrination, and persecution techniques. In addition, it is now using the country’s celebrities to disseminate its ideals and impose its thinking on its millions of followers.
The CCP authorities reacted against the United States after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan by accusing it of violating the “one China” principle. Consequently, it has launched a propaganda campaign to get the message of unification across to the Chinese and Taiwanese public.
According to experts in Chinese cultural policy, the CCP is reportedly encouraging major celebrities to circulate messages associated with the “one China” concept among their fans to condemn any pro-independence sentiment in Taiwan.
At least 85% of the top 200 celebrities in China posted official CCP messages on their social media account at least once during the second half of 2021, the think tank warned.
Following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China’s official state-run propaganda outlet China Central Television (CCTV), posted on the Weibo platform a message saying, “there is only one China in the world.”
Within hours, hundreds of Chinese celebrities had republished or commented on the message, causing the post to reach millions of users quickly. More than 11 million people have commented on the post, thanks to the momentum of these celebrities in China.
Even some Taiwanese celebrities commented on the post, receiving support from the CCP’s media. One entertainment news outlet went so far as to publish an article highlighting more than 20 Taiwanese celebrities who reposted the CCTV message and were consequently praised for “fulfilling the responsibility of expressing their political support.”
Following typical CCP behavior, the article also published a list of 11 well-known Taiwanese celebrities who neither commented on the CCTV commentary nor broadcast in favor of the regime. In this way, it sought to expose them and try to have them condemned by their fanatics.
Hebe Tien is a well-known Taiwanese singer with over 13 million followers on Weibo. However, she was one of the artists singled out for not posting against Taiwan and consequently came under attack from fans and Chinese propaganda media.
Artists cave in due to an intense campaign of regulation and control
The entertainment industry grew exponentially as China’s economy developed during the 2000s. Social networks and telecommunications gave a new impetus that allowed the emergence of hundreds of new stars, especially among young people and teenagers.
As characters that millions of Chinese began to “worship” emerged, the CCP saw the need to control and set limits on their comments and political ideas.
Thus, in 2014, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a communiqué to demand that all broadcasting platforms block “tainted artists.”
Since then, a legal framework has been created to enable censorship and persecution of alleged “tainted artists.”
Over time, artists and celebrities who did not expressly support the CCP were left out of the exceptional opportunities enjoyed by those who were “loyal” to communism.
In China, most of the funds with which the industry moves come from public coffers. Therefore they are designated by the CCP according to its interests.
Adolescents are at an age where their values and political ideals are not yet fully defined or developed. Therefore it is widespread, both in China and elsewhere in the world, that they repeat and assimilate as their own the speeches issued by their idols, which are accepted without critical analysis.
What happens to celebrities who don’t follow the CCP
There are several examples of how the CCP pressures stars who want to stay in the lucrative Chinese entertainment market.
Since 2021, the CCP has focused on a “greater crackdown” on celebrities. Since then, several unforeseen events have happened to the stars, causing them to lose prestige, money, and fame. Some were even arrested or even disappeared.
Zheng Shuang is a young Chinese actress who the CCP fined $299 million for alleged tax evasion. Her well-known rejection of the regime may have triggered her prosecution.
Even more worrying is the case of Zhao Wei, one of the best-known Chinese actresses of the 1990s, who disappeared at the end of August 2021. Her social media accounts, fan sites, movies, and TV shows vanished as if she had never existed.
Once an artist enters the Chinese entertainment industry, he or she enters a vicious cycle from which it is not easy to escape. Because once you agree to pay allegiance to the CCP and follow its rules, either for money or fame, your life will be under constant control and surveillance, becoming a tool of indoctrination, disinformation, and propaganda.