China has a habit of blasting seemingly mundane cultural things, ranging from foreign movies to television advertisements. Most recently, a Chinese newspaper has attacked the Western "holiday" of Valentine’s Day.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, weighed in one of the nation’s most plaguing issues: Valentine’s Day. The 2.4 million readers of the People’s Daily were treated to a short article that blamed Valentine’s Day for the country's rampant corruption and sex scandals among party officials.
According to the South China Morning Post, the four-paragraph story described Valentine’s Day a “breeding ground” for corruption and decadence. The article went on to describe various fallen Chinese political figures who had succumbed to the same deviance that Valentine’s Day inspires. It mentioned disgraced former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, whose family was the center of an international scandal involving murder, money and possibly British intelligence. The article also brought up the tawdry sex scandals involving Liu Zhijun, the former railways minister, and former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu, both of whom had mistresses and illicit affairs with women.
The writer of the article asked why the Western holiday “had transformed into a breeding ground for corruption when it reached the mainland,” the South China Morning Post wrote. Adding, “the problem was cadres who had abandoned communist beliefs, breaking their party oath and betraying the cause.”
Though perhaps misdirected on the holiday, the article essentially was making the point that, while the celebration of love with flowers and chocolate was not really the problem, the popularization of Western holidays undermines China’s culture and, in turn, its policy.
China's goverment is often wary of Western cultural influence on its citizens. The government continues to block foreign social media sites Facebook and Twitter on mainland China. Video-sharing site YouTube is blocked, and accessing parent company Google continues to be problematic in China.
Beyond that, the government’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, has taken editing liberties on several Western movies when they were released in China, for content deemed inappropriate. For the most part, content that is removed from movies is seen as sending political or corruptive messages to Chinese audiences.
For example, the Chinese release of "Men in Black III" was edited to remove a scene that took place in New York City’s Chinatown. The clip that was removed was of Will Smith’s character, Agent J, using a device to erase the memory of a group of people who just witnessed an alien attack. The SARFT understood this to be a commentary on the government’s decision to utilize censorship to maintain national stability.
As the world’s two biggest economies continue to interact, cultural exchanges are bound to increase. But, while China's government may be welcoming to foreign sports and arts programs, perhaps it still is not ready to receive Valentine's Day with open arms.