It is the season of bans in China! Under the Chinese Communist Party of General Secretary Xi Jinping, anything under the sun can be banned. Businesses, private education, religion, video games, startups, karaoke songs, and now, China’s entertainment industry – they have all come under massive blows from the hammer Xi Jinping wields. Over the weekend, at least two Chinese government bodies announced plans to crack down on the country’s online celebrity fan culture, describing the situation as “chaotic” and a negative influence on Chinese youth. Under the aegis of the same crackdown, multiple celebrities like Zhao Wei and their fan groups were targeted – and as of now, such individuals and groups have been completely erased from Chinese memory.
Those targeted have been blacked out of the already censored Chinese internet. Fan groups have been shut down, while the celebrities and influencers have retired into anonymity. Rest assured, the world will never hear from such people again, as the CCP’s cruel crackdown on every sector continues. However, Xi Jinping’s crackdown on the entertainment sector of China is different. Perhaps, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has not been at the heart of any Chinese crackdown, barring the CCP’s attack on the tech sector, as he is now.
On Thursday, China’s video streaming giants – Tencent Video and iQiyi scrubbed their archives of all films and TV series starring Zhao Wei — a billionaire actor who rose to fame in the late 1990s to become one of the country’s most popular celebrities. Movie information sites stripped Zhao’s name from films that credit her as a director or producer, while Weibo deleted Zhao Wei official page. Zhao Wei’s extermination from China’s digital space came as a consequence of an order from the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), the state-run regulator for entertainment.
Zhao Wei was not alone in being targeted by Beijing without the furnishment of any valid reasons. In China, people can be incarcerated for the flimsiest of reasons. Strangely, however, the CCP chose to not state the reasons behind it cracking down on two of China’s most famous celebrities. The work of the famous musician Gao Xiaosong was also taken offline. Gao Xiaosong is a Chinese-born American composer, songwriter, music producer, and director. Until March this year, Gao was the Chairman of Alibaba Entertainment Strategic Committee and AliMusic.
Zhao Wei, meanwhile, was heavily invested in Jack Ma’s entertainment and media offering along with her husband, Huang Youlong. Zhou previously also set up a company that became a strategic partner of Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Unionpay, and which is partly held by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ant Financial. In 2014, Zhao Wei and her husband Huang Youlong became the second-largest shareholder of Alibaba Pictures, after taking hold of a $400 million stake in the same. According to WhatsOnWeibo, it has also been reported that Zhao Wei allegedly used her mother Wei Qiying as a legal representative in 2015 in holding shares in the Ant Group.
Additionally, Zhao’s arrest is somehow connected to the downfall of Hangzhou Party Secretary Zhou Jianyong, who was detained earlier this month under corruption charges. Hangzhou is home to Alibaba’s headquarters, and as stated already, Zhao Wei has a controversial connection to Jianyong through her investment in Alibaba Pictures. Meanwhile, Jack Ma is an ally of Zhou Jiangyong, and is also a close friend of Gao Xiaosong and Zhao Wei, as well as the banned actor’s husband.
Alibaba and other major Chinese tech companies have come under fire as the CCP’s concerns about their influence in China have grown. Since October 2020, Alibaba has been under investigation. After Chinese regulators expressed increasing concern about Alibaba’s financial arm, Ant Group expanding into loans, asset management, and insurance, its co-founder, Jack Ma, chastised them as being behind the times.
As reported by TFI, a vigorous onslaught by the CCP on Jack Ma’s empire has reduced Alibaba’s fortunes by half of what they were in October last year. After dismembering the Alibaba group and its fortunes, the CCP is now targeting Jack Ma’s social circle, so that their ability to influence public opinion is reduced to zilch. Celebrities close to Jack Ma have effectively been erased from China. Many other influencers too have suffered as collateral, the likes of which include Zheng Shuang, who has been slapped with a $46.1 million tax evasion fine, apart from a digital extermination.
Jack Ma had become too influential a person in China by last year. He had emerged as a threat to Xi Jinping, which is why the CCP came cracking down hard on him. Now that Jack Ma’s wings have been clipped, Jinping is going after his “social circle”, which includes a long list of celebrities, influencers and just about any well-known Chinese person. All in all, this is a terrible time to be rich, famous and influential in China.