- When I moved to China I soon noticed that millions of Chinese are
huge fans of American television programs and movies. It has become a
way for them to learn about our American culture and our English
- There are internet sites that stream American television series and films with meticulous Chinese subtitles.
- American television programs have become hugely popular for
Chinese viewers and I myself enjoy accessing American films in English.
- In late November, though, millions of Chinese fans of our
American entertainment found their ability to gain access, shutdown, by
the Chinese Government. Most of China’s legitimate video streaming sites
are now falling victim to harsh censorship and you will not find any
western television series on China’s broadcasting networks. Even
Satellite television is no longer immune to China’s over-the-top
censorship of western programs which has become a huge disappointment to
television viewers in China.
- The hit political thriller "House of Cards" was released on the
video site Sohu in February of 2014 and many in China viewed it as a
sign of liberalization in China's strictly-controlled media market. The
show appeared uncensored despite unflattering story lines about China's
ruling Communist elite. The show had over 103 million views and that’s
more than double of Netflix’s 50 million global subscribers. As of late
November, though, the show has been banned in China.
- The Chinese government is now banning shows without warning or
explanation. In April many popular American programs were blocked on
China’s popular streaming sites including the immensely popular show
‘The Big Bang Theory.’ China’s Broadcasting regulators have announced
that it will only allow healthy content to be streamed on China’s sites.
- What is more disappointing for China’s fans of American
entertainment is that they will have to wait for an entire season to air
in the U.S. before the Chinese Broadcasting regulators will allow the
shows to air on China’s internet sites. Many in China feel the released
versions of their favorite shows will be highly edited and chopped up by
the Chinese censors.
- It now seems that the Chinese government has become alarmed by
the popularity of our American programs. The programs get millions of
hits per hour and they have become more popular than the Chinese
programs, especially, among China’s youth.
- A release of a new episode of a popular American program often
attracts millions of views or downloads within hours of its release. The
popularity of American programs has gotten so huge that officials in
China are nervous about the impact it’s having in China. They are
reacting as though the impact the western culture is having on their
country’s youth could possibly become an ideological threat.
- It’s unfortunate how many people in China accept China’s
censorship or should I say crackdown on what can or can’t be streamed on
China’s controlled internet. People are wearily accepting it as being
China’s "new normal" under an increasingly powerful and hardline
President Xi Jinping.
- China’s growing image in the west is that anything associated
with a [differing ideology] or the image China would like to portray to
the world; is being squeezed, tightened, or limited and it’s being done
out of fear that our western ideology will grow into a threat within
- Many of China’s educated youth, however, are discovering ways
to get around the blocked content. They continually explore technical
workarounds such as using VPN’s (Virtual Proxy Networks) to bypass
- The Chinese Government views VPN’s as a growing threat because
they are enabling internet users to get around China’s internet
restrictions. The majority of China’s youth do not want to watch
domestic shows, known for their over-the-top propaganda, and low
- Most Americans living in China see this type of censorship as
being absurd and many of the Chinese youth, on various social media
sites, are expressing outrage and concern about it as well. One concern
for the Chinese is that the Chinese Government will totally shut the
door to American TV, and that would most certainly be a tragic thing for
millions of Chinese viewers.
- The Chinese Government by dictating to its people on what it
deems to be of entertainment value is in actuality restricting not only
their people’s freedom but the creative spark of their country’s youth.
- I told my students here in Suzhou, China, that television
programs in the U.S. get canceled all the time due to ratings. The
American television viewers determine the show’s entertainment value or
lack thereof and the shows longevity is determined by the U.S.
viewership not the American Government.
- I pride myself on knowing that in America people can freely
find their own sources of entertainment free from government
interference. In America people will not stand by and let their freedoms
be trampled upon because freedom is a major part of the American
culture. Our freedom is what the Chinese people are desperately seeking
and they are continually striving to emulate our culture. The Chinese
people’s love for American entertainment is in actuality an embrace for
our freedom of expression.
- An unfortunate reality for the Chinese people, though, seems to
be that the more they seek to express themselves freely the more of an
ideological threat they become for the Chinese Government.
- Hopefully, in the near future as technology continues to
advance, the ability of the Chinese people to communicate instantly and
freely will also advance. The Chinese Government will then have to
realize that the will of the people seeking a Democratic system of
Government will become more and more difficult for the Chinese
Government to control.
- The cry for Democracy will be heard, loudly, not only in China
but throughout the world and that is the Chinese Government’s greatest
- But as I told my students’ only time will tell …….
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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- Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link: