The Chinese Ministry of Culture, through state media outlet Xinhua, has published a “blacklist” of 120 songs banned from being played or sold in China for their “obscenity, violence, crime” or potential to “harm social morality.” Anyone caught trafficking in this music will receive “severe punishment,” the government says.
The list, which apparently was only published on the Mandarin Xinhua website and not in English, includes a variety of 120 songs by Chinese and Taiwanese artists. “No unit or individual is allowed to provide [these songs],” the ban demands, though it is unclear what the definition of “provide” is, and whether listening to the song at home constitutes submitting passersby to the song and thus “providing” them. A number of those songs contain content of a sexual nature, such as the romantic promise of rapper Chang Csun Yuk to take an accidentally pregnant Taiwanese girl “to a gynecology department” in the song “I Love Taiwanese Girls.” (He makes clear: “I don’t like Chinese women.”)
Other artists and songs on the list include “Beijing Hooligans,” “Don’t Want to Go to School,” and “Suicide Diary.” The list, according to most translations of it, appears not to include any overtly anti-communist or anti-government lyrical content, merely songs that hint at derision for authority or sexual content.
Atop the list is another Chang Csun Yuk song, “Fart,” whose lyrics include that “there are some people in the world who like farting while doing nothing.”
According to this translation of the song’s meaning, however, it is not being banned for being vulgar, but because it is a rebuke of sycophantic workers at the office who are too reverent to authority. Says YouTube user მთვრალი, “The title of the song ‘放屁’ literally means ‘farting’ in Chinese, but in the Chinese language this term is also commonly used to describe people who bullshits [sic] a lot. So basically, a bullshit-artist who talks big is seen by many as ‘farting’ in this context…LOL.” The user notes he is lamenting workers “sucking up to the boss.”
The video’s imagery, of a boring office cubicle space, appears to back this interpretation:
The Guardian notes that Chinese social media’s reaction to the banned list has been somewhat mixed, with some being grateful that the government is cracking down on “bad taste and vulgarity,” while others condemn the intrusion on the artists’ freedom of expression.
Encouraging critical thinking against the communist authorities of the state has always been frowned upon by Chinese authorities, so much so that Chinese authorities have even cracked down on reality television programming for not being sufficiently “close to the masses.” One such program, 2011’s If You Are the One, attracted government scorn for featuring women looking to marry rich men and valuing material possessions like cars and jewelry.
In addition to limiting “immoral” music, the Chinese government is also looking to take full control of the Chinese music market, removing 2.2 million songs from digital music outlets this month in an alleged attempt to crack down on copyright infringement.