China is gearing up to welcome the world to this year’s Olympic Games by clamping down on foreign culture.
After introducing restrictions on foreign-made productions in 2006, even stricter rules come into force on May 1 that will see the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Mickey Mouse and Pokemon banned on all cartoon and children’s channels during “the golden hours” of 5pm to 9pm.
Chinese officials maintain the ban will create “a favourable environment for the domestic cartoon industry” and only domestic cartoons approved by the regulator will be allowed. Any co-produced by Chinese and foreign collaborators will also need official approval.
Although foreign cartoons are proving increasingly popular with Chinese children, the authorities are keen to maximise every conceivable opportunity to showcase the “21st China” before, during and after the Beijing Olympics.
China is keen to show off how it has become an economic powerhouse in the last decade or so, plus highlight its rich heritage and vibrant modern culture.
The authorities suffered a PR blow when Steven Spielberg announced his resignation as an artistic adviser in protest at the Chinese stance on Darfur.
China hit back at the Hollywood film director’s decision, calling him misguided and saying his resignation would not have a negative impact on the Games.
Indeed, the storm in a tea cup that Spielberg’s decision created soon subsided.
However, China will find it harder to overcome the image problems and criticism it faces over cases such as the subversion trial currently being faced by a leading dissident.
SpongeBob SquarePants and Mickey Mouse will not be the only victims of Chinese oppression during this particular Olympic year.