Commentary: How ‘sissy men’ became the latest front in China’s campaign against big tech

TV dramas, films and talent shows produced by private tech companies started to take off, while ratings and ad revenues of state-owned television stations tumbled.Beginning in 2016, the government started to censor web videos with the same criteria it had been using for television. However, the restrictions seemed to only inspire more creative and subversive expressions of sexuality on video streaming sites. For example, images of two men kissing and holding hands were banned. So creators simply used dialogues and gestures, like intense eye contact, to convey intimacy. Furthermore, these rules didn’t regulate the physical appearance of characters. Since 2017, shows produced by the country’s leading video-streaming platforms – many of which mimic the basic format of shows like American Idol and The Voice – have launched the careers of a number of effeminate male celebrities. These shows include The Coming One and CHUANG 2021, which appear on Tencent Video, a streaming site owned by Tencent, the Chinese technology conglomerate that also owns WeChat. Meanwhile, Idol Producer and Youth With You appear on another video service provider, iQiyi, a subsidiary of Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google. The male participants in these shows are often young, dress in unisex clothing, and apply orange-red eye shadow and lipstick, along with heavy makeup that whitens their skin and thickens their eyebrows.

Commentary: How ‘sissy men’ became the latest front in China’s campaign against big tech

TV dramas, films and talent shows produced by private tech companies started to take off, while ratings and ad revenues of state-owned television stations tumbled.

Beginning in 2016, the government started to censor web videos with the same criteria it had been using for television. However, the restrictions seemed to only inspire more creative and subversive expressions of sexuality on video streaming sites.

For example, images of two men kissing and holding hands were banned. So creators simply used dialogues and gestures, like intense eye contact, to convey intimacy.

Furthermore, these rules didn’t regulate the physical appearance of characters.

Since 2017, shows produced by the country’s leading video-streaming platforms – many of which mimic the basic format of shows like American Idol and The Voice – have launched the careers of a number of effeminate male celebrities.

These shows include The Coming One and CHUANG 2021, which appear on Tencent Video, a streaming site owned by Tencent, the Chinese technology conglomerate that also owns WeChat.

Meanwhile, Idol Producer and Youth With You appear on another video service provider, iQiyi, a subsidiary of Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google. The male participants in these shows are often young, dress in unisex clothing, and apply orange-red eye shadow and lipstick, along with heavy makeup that whitens their skin and thickens their eyebrows.