China bans celebrities with “out of morals” from endorsing products

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China has banned all celebrities from endorsing a range of products and banned those with “out of morals” from endorsing anything, as part of an ongoing push to align society with “core socialist values.”

The regulations, announced by state regulators this week, prevent Chinese celebrities from endorsing or publicly advertising health, education and financial products, including e-cigarettes and infant formula.

Regulators said the push was to ensure that Chinese society was “guided by Xi Jinping’s thinking about socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era,” referring to the radical ideology behind Xi-led Communist Party rule.

“Celebrities should consciously practice the core values ​​of socialism in their advertising sponsorship activities and sponsorship activities should conform to social morality and traditional virtues,” state the new regulations.

It is the latest regulatory move in an entertainment industry crackdown, in which celebrities have effectively been blacklisted for scandals and online fandom intervention.

The rules also prohibited companies from hiring celebrities who found themselves having “outdated morals” or engaging in illegal behavior including tax evasion, drunkenness, drug addiction and fraud, and from using images of Communist Party leaders, revolutionary leaders and heroes. in their advertising.

Authorities said the regulations were introduced in response to celebrities who illegally or falsely endorsed “bad ideas”.

“The media is permissive, allowing illegal and immoral stars to participate in advertising sponsorships. The chaos in the field of advertising sponsorship has grossly violated the rights and interests of consumers, upset the market order and polluted the social atmosphere, and people have expressed strong reactions, “the state media read.

Under Xi’s increasingly authoritarian rule, the Chinese government has tightened control over the entertainment industry and celebrity fandom in an effort to reshape China’s pop culture landscape.

In September 2021, authorities banned some reality TV talent shows and ordered broadcasters not to promote what they derogatively called “sissies.” A two-month regulatory operation also banned the ranking of celebrities and cultural products in an attempt to curb the “chaos” and monetization of online fandom.

In the same month, at a Beijing entertainment symposium titled “Love the party, love the country, stand up for morality and art”, it was said that the industry must act morally in both public and private.

The president of the Chinese advertising association, Zhang Guohua, said the regulations will contribute to a “more standardized and healthier improvement” of the industry.

“This doesn’t mean that celebrity endorsements will be limited, but everyone will be more cautious and artists will be more responsible and self-disciplined. As long as the law is respected, celebrity sponsorships will continue to run normally within the scope of compliance and legality, so the impact is positive, “Zhang told national media.

He said those who have “enjoyed the benefits of being a public figure” should prepare to be moderate in their actions due to their influence as role models.

“You have such status and influence in the industry, so you should be cautious in your words and actions,” Zhang said.

In recent years, China’s massive entertainment industry has been rocked by celebrity scandals that have crossed the line of extreme political sensitivity within China.

In 2021, actor Zheng Shuang was fined nearly RMB 300 million ($ 46 million) for tax evasion and barred from being invited to participate in entertainment programs. Around the same time, Fendi brand ambassador Zhao Wei removed her name from all jobs on major entertainment platforms for unknown reasons.

Several companies or celebrities have also been punished for endorsing bad or fraudulent products. Last year, comedian Li Dan was fined about $ 134,000 for an ad for women’s underwear deemed offensive to women, the state-owned Global Times media reported.

The new guidelines also require celebrities to fully understand and have used the product they are endorsing.

Further research by Chi Hui Lin

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