China’s central government may be pumping more money into the nation’s military forces, but President Xi Jinping is reconsidering funding certain sectors of the People’s Liberation Army. In particular, the new, austerity-driven leadership has announced cuts affecting a uniquely Chinese brand of celebrities: military entertainers.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, military performers are required to get approval for non-military performances, in hopes of limiting abuse of their celebrity in order to make money. Military singers and dancers are often given high ranks and reach mainstream stardom. One of China’s most famous military singers is current First Lady Peng Liyuan, who was famous for her renditions of traditional Chinese folk songs long before she was the wife of Xi Jinping.
The added guidelines, announced by the General Political Department of the PLA, notified performers that they are banned from appearing in civilian singing competitions or participating in local televised shows, in addition to not being allowed to perform at karaoke clubs or lounges that could potentially threaten the image of the PLA. The announcement also banned performers from signing with entertainment agents or other using other platforms like endorsements for personal profit. Those violating the new rules would face severe, if unspecified, punishments.
The PLA’s entertainment troupe is an unusual military branch. Operating under the military propaganda team, performers are charged with spreading socialist ideals through song and dance and boost the overall morale of their fellow troops. However, issues have arisen as the PLA’s arsenal of talented singers has continued to grow, despite being in peacetime, and now is estimated by mainland media sources to include roughly 10,000 men and women. In addition to thr sheer number of people on state payroll, scandal has surrounded several of the performers.
Most recently, the teenage son of two famous army singers, Li Shuangjiang and Meng Ge, has been accused of a gang rape, with other rumors swirling over the special treatment of the case because of the high-ranking position of the alleged rapists’ parents. Another case involved another army singer who drove around Beijing in flashy cars while repeatedly ignoring traffic laws. Analysts say such cases have tarnished the name of such performers, and have raised questions over how necessary they are, especially since they usually do not see combat during wartime. “Military entertainers are a part of the PLA and should abide by the same disciplinary rules as everyone else [in the army],” Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military affairs expert, said in the report. “Their obligation is to perform for the soldiers in the barracks. It’s unacceptable that they appear in commercial performances clad in military uniform. It’s time to put a halt to all this.”
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The newly announced plans have also added a mandatory month every year where performers must train and live in barracks alongside other soldiers.