International media have emphasized restrictions on controversial celebrities and fraud. But the regulation also deals with the ideological content of the endorsements.
by Zhou Kexin
Rarely do non-Chinese media pay attention to the plethora of new regulations enacted to strengthen control of all fields of economic, social, and online activity in China. These are mostly analyzed by Bitter Winter and other specialized publications.
There are, however, exceptions. One are the “Guiding Opinions of the State Administration for Market Regulation, the Central Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the State Film Administration on Further Regulating Celebrity Advertising Endorsements” (not a short title: 市场监管总局、中央网信办、文化和旅游部、广电总局、银保监会、证监会、国家电影局 关于进一步规范明星广告代言活动的指导意见), dated October 31, 2022.
Even international media have commented on the provisions against celebrity-endorsed fraud and the fact that celebrities who have become controversial for their scandals, normally connected with their romantic or sexual life, would not be further allowed to make money endorsing or advertising commercial products. Even the ultra-popular influencers should now watch their back in China.
This is generally true, except that what the regulation says is that before commercial companies would consider hiring a celebrity or influencer for endorsing their products, “they shall fully learn about the celebrity’s professional situation and social credit.” The social credit system is not about sex scandals only. Those who express any form of dissent or are caught attending services of “illegal” religions also have a bad social credit. In general, the regulation says that companies should avoid those who “pollute the social environment,” which are code words for those promoting an alternative lifestyle or criticizing or simply not supporting the CCP, and only employ celebrities with a good “political standing.”
In fact, more is requested from both those who endorse all kind of products and the content of the endorsements themselves. Even in this field, those involved should make sure that “Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and adherence to the Core Socialist Values are leading the path.” Everybody, the regulation prescribes, should “adhere to the correct orientation. In their advertising endorsement activities, celebrities shall conscientiously manifest the Core Socialist Values,” avoiding “erroneous concept and non-orthodox aesthetics.”
To be on the safer side, it is specifically prescribed that the endorsements should not include references to “superstition,” which is another code word for any religious and spiritual idea propagated outside of the five authorized religions and the strict control of the Communist Party.