Bannedin China / China

The trope Banned in China is named for the People's Republic of China, a country famous for banning works seemingly arbitrarily. It might not be the most prolific, but it's certainly one of the most visible, because (a) China is a big country and a big export market, so producers want their works to make it there however they can and (b) China is also very authoritarian and fairly paternalistic, so the government has a lot of power and inclination to ban anything it feels has a bad influence on the people. This, of course, would include works which criticize or undermine the government, make fun of China or the Chinese as a whole, or reference the more unpleasant events in China's history, particularly the history the current regime was around for.

The government accomplishes this with a strict pass-fail rating system; either the film is appropriate for all ages, or it's rejected. As with most other countries, the censor board's failure to rate a film equals a ban. The criteria for passing are often arbitrary, vague, or otherwise secret, so it's not easy to determine in advance what will pass muster. Some individual theater managers will have unofficial ratings for films which otherwise pass, but these are relatively rare and separate from the government sanction.

This system, by the way, does very little to stop domestic consumption of foreign works in China; piracy is huge there, and it can't be prevented for the most part. And the rules apply equally to domestic and foreign media, so Chinese productions tend to be very linear and watered-down. But foreign media producers want a piece of the massive official market in China, and as such, they've become increasingly willing to censor or re-cut their own works to seek the approval of Chinese censors.

This banning policy only applies in the mainland. Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic, and they aren't governed by this scheme; they have their own, independent rating systems. This is how some works can be shown in Hong Kong but not in the mainland.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note was banned in China for allegedly inciting anarchy and insubordination, after some kids and teens were caught using ripoff notebooks to make hit lists. That being said, it did receive a Cantonese dub and was aired in Hong Kong.
  • Code Geass was once banned in China for its themes of rebellion and the dignity of oppressed minorities. The second season also portrays China as a nation of starving citizens oppressed by a group of power-hungry creeps using the twelve-year-old heir to the throne as their puppet before a bunch of Japanese guys lead by a white guy incite a revolution and overthrow them, which doesn't help matters. It was un-banned in 2008.
  • Yaoi Genre manga, anime, and games have been suppressed, banned and regulated in mainland China and Hong Kong for fear that "[r]eading too much [yaoi] material will change [girls'] sexual orientation somehow"; see this academic paper. A couple of Yaoi magazines such as BOLO and 801 Kano are still being published as special issues of other publications, though.
  • In 2015, the Chinese government started cracking down "violent" and "sexually oriented" anime and manga in the internet and print. These include Blood-C, Psycho-Pass, Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, High School Of The Dead, and Deadman Wonderland among others.

    Comic Books 
  • Chick Tracts are illegal in China.
  • During Mao's regime, the Tintin comic book albums The Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet were unavailable, while other Tintin stories were. After Mao's death, the stories were eventually released, but the title of Tintin in Tibet was changed into "Tintin in Chinese Tibet", since China has occupied Tibet since the 1950s. Hergé and his lawyers sued successfully to get the title changed back.

    Fan Fic 

China automatically "bans" (or, more accurately, puts a quota on) all non-Chinese movies, only giving special permits for a fixed number of foreign films to be shown per year. In theory, this protects their domestic film industry from bigger-budget foreign competition. In practice, it has spawned a massive and well-established market for pirated foreign movies.

  • The movie Temptress Moon was promoted in the United States as "a seductive new film so provocative it was banned in its own country." As a writer to Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man column pointed out, "considering that its own country is China, that's not such a big deal."
  • Yimou Zhang's films, such as To Live, are banned in China.
  • Any form of discussion about the oppression of the Tibetans or the Tiananmen Square massacre (if it is in media or not) will get you arrested and scrutinized by the Chinese government. The government-approved history textbooks will only give them cursory mention, if at all. Among films banned for addressing these topics:
    • Seven Years in Tibet is banned, and so are the two stars, Brad Pitt and David Thewlis. Director Jean-Jacques Arnaud was banned as well, but has since been invited to make a movie on the Inner Mongolian culture, The Wolf Totem.
    • The Wolf Totem itself averted this, but barely. The book would have been banned, as the author Jiang Rong was arrested and imprisoned for his participation in the Tiananmen protests. This is the reason why he remained reclusive despite that novel's success; he knew he wasn't that trusted.
  • The good news: China celebrated Ang Lee's winning of an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain as a triumph for Chinese people. The bad news: Brokeback Mountain is banned in China for its depictions of homosexuality. Also, Ang Lee's from Taiwan, but that's another discussion.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End can only be shown in China if all the scenes with Sao Feng in them are edited or modified to remove him. Apparently, he is a "negative portrayal" of the Chinese (although honestly, it would not make that much of a difference on the film's plot).
  • Warner Bros. had refused to screen The Dark Knight in China for its portrayal of the Chinese criminal accountant Lau (played by Singaporean Chin Han) and implying that Hong Kong police are corrupt, for fear that it would offend the Chinese. However, it is apparently one of the most popular bootleg DVD titles in China.
  • The second Tomb Raider film was banned for depicting China as having "secret societies".
  • Martin Scorsese was already banned from entering China after making Kundun, a biography of the Dalai Lama. And then The Departed was banned for having a scene with Chinese authorities buying advanced computer chip technology.
  • Mission: Impossible III gave the government some cause for concern, as it depicts the Chinese police as incompetent and shows poor living conditions in Chinese villages. There is also one scene where graffiti advertising a document forgery service (which is apparently a big business in China) can be glimpsed. Interestingly, it is re-included in the Warner Home Video DVD9 release.
  • Raise the Red Lantern was banned in China — until it helped raise their tourism.
  • The Red Dawn (2012) remake was considered likely to face legal or financial problems in China due to its portrayal of a Chinese invasion of the US, leading to the makers to change the villains to North Koreans.
  • It's commonly believed that China bans all movies concerning Time Travel, as Chinese culture has so much respect for its ancestors that it will not allow a depiction of them that will necessarily be somewhat inaccurate. It turns out they don't ban it outright, but they do have a guideline discouraging it, which included a recommendation that filmmakers no longer adapt the Four Great Classical Novels either. There are a number of Time Travel works that are banned in China anyway, including all adaptations of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and the entire Back to the Future trilogy.
  • Avatar was released in China, but its 2D version was pulled from cinemas very quickly afterwards despite the film being the most popular shown in China ever. It was long rumored that this was because oppressed Chinese citizens could be inspired by the film's message, but at least part of it was also because it was eating into the profit margin of a state-sanctioned biopic of Confucius that was running concurrently. They never had a problem with the 3D version, though.
  • 21 And Over wasn't banned in China, but it was heavily altered. The original is a pretty straightforward college comedy about an Asian-American student and his antics during his 21st birthday. The movie also explicitly states that his family has lived in America for five generations. The Chinese version turns him into a Chinese exchange student in America and becomes a cautionary tale about "the perils of a hedonistic West and the importance of embracing one’s roots." They even shot extra scenes at a Chinese college for the second version.
  • A scene from Men in Black 3 where Agent J neuralyzes a bunch of Asian tourists in Chinatown was cut from the Chinese version. The Chinese government viewed the scene as a criticism of Internet censorship.
  • Forty minutes were cut from Cloud Atlas. This included a same-sex romance and a straight sex scene. The censors also wished to make Cloud Atlas into more of a "popcorn movie" to appeal to audiences.
  • Averted, while not banned in China, Skyfall was censored to remove a scene in which James Bond kills a Chinese security guard. The subtitles also remove a mention of Severine's time as a child prostitute in Macau.
  • In the 3D version of Titanic (1997), Kate Winslet is framed from the neck up in the famous scene in which she is drawn nude by Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • For Iron Man 2, all mentions of "Russia" or the "Russian" language are removed. For example, Justin Hammer's line of "I don't speak Russian" is changed to "I don't speak your mother language." The comments section contains a few theories on what motivated this change.
  • Iron Man 3 saw a number of production changes to avoid this fate in China:
    • The Mandarin, who is a classic Yellow Peril villain in the comics, is played by Ben Kingsley in the film. The Chinese government would likely not have allowed a portrayal closer to the comics.
    • The Chinese government also convinced Marvel to include well-known Chinese actors Fan Bingbing and Wang Xuquei. Fans speculated that they would be playing Chinese Marvel characters Collective Man and Radioactive Man; as it turns out, they were both Advertised Extras. Chinese audiences were not impressed.
  • Django Unchained was initially banned in China. However, it may get a release after scenes involving nudity, excessive violence, and "politically sensitive" topics are edited out.
  • Despicable Me 2 was initially banned in China, but was allowed a release in December 2013.
  • Subverted, incredibly, by V for Vendetta, which was released in DVD in 2006 and was aired on TV in December 2012.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey was not banned in China; the studio didn't even try to release it there, knowing that it wouldn't pass the censor board.
  • Averted, while it was not banned, Pixels was edited to remove a scene showing the aliens blowing a hole in the Great Wall of China out of fears that it would get the movie banned over there.
  • Crimson Peak may not get released in China due to censorship guidelines discouraging films promoting "cults or superstition." This also extends to ghosts and other supernatural beings depicted in realistic environments (stories based on Chinese mythology are exempted).
  • A Chinese poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens shrinks down John Boyega.
  • Deadpool has not been released in China, as the producers claimed it would have been impossible to cut all the copious violence, sex, and bad language and end up with anything resembling a coherent film.
  • Sausage Party was withheld from release in China for the same reasons as Deadpool; raunchy, violent, profane, and animated to boot. Between the inevitable cuts and the equally inevitable angry parents taking their kids to see it because hey, cartoons are for kids!, it was deemed safer to just not release the film at all.
  • Co-writer C. Robert Cargill admitted this was the main reason behind the controversial decision to "whitewash" The Ancient One in Doctor Strange. China has become such a huge market for Marvel films that the studio didn't want to risk pissing off the Chinese censors by casting an actor or actress from Tibet, so making the Ancient One white and British was seen as the least offensive alternative.
  • The 2016 Ghostbusters reboot was barred from release in China, allegedly due to an obscure guideline against the depictions of supernatural beings and ghosts, but a financing partner for the movie, based in China, clarified that the real reason was because there was little hype for the movie in that region.

  • David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, about a future world ruled by Chinese lords, is banned in China.
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a book about the Cultural Revolution, persecution of academics and the educated, and Book Burning. Since this is one of the books studied in Hong Kong international schools, there have been at least a few cases of students finding their copies unexpectedly confiscated.
  • An aversion: contrary to what you might expect, Nineteen Eighty-Four is readily available.
  • Jung Chang's family history Wild Swans, which recounts the sufferings endured by her family during the Cultural Revolution, is banned.
  • American journalist Michael Meyer's The Last Days of Old Beijing, about the three years he spent living in one of the hutongs of that city teaching English, was banned for five years, presumably for its depiction of the lives of poor residents struggling to save their historic neighborhoods from urban renewal projects spearheaded by corrupt officials for their developer friends. Apparently, though, the real reason is that it shows mainland China and Taiwan in different colors on a map in the frontispiece. Five years after publication in the U.S., the ban was lifted, and Meyer's Chinese publisher sent him on a book tour. However, by his count the Chinese edition still cut almost a page's worth of passages. "Better 400 pages of book than no book at all. In China, you take what you can get," he said.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The last episode of the historical series Towards The Republic was censored, as it ends with a speech by Sun Yat-sen about the merits of democracy. It was un-banned after internet release.
  • On The Late Late Show, Craig Ferguson revealed an email he had received claiming that his program's internet broadcasts were banned in China. He jokingly took this as a threat, saying "double entendres and fart jokes are too threatening to the mighty Chinese regime," and lamented that they would therefore miss his guest for the evening, Morgan Freeman.
  • Portions of the broadcast of Anderson Cooper 360 that aired from May 2, 2012 onwards on CNN International were blacked out in China when it discussed developments with political activist Chen Guangcheng, particularly when alleged threats made towards Chen and his family by the Chinese government were mentioned.
  • As of April 2014, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS, and The Practice have been banned from Chinese video services for unspecified reasons.
  • In January 2015, the State General Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered Agent Carter and Empire removed from Chinese streaming sites due to a new regulation stating that a show's entire first season must be submitted to the government for review before any episodes can air. The previous regulation only required a show to be approved on an episode-by-episode basis.
  • Doctor Who is banned due to the portrayal of Time Travel; as stated above, the Chinese government frowns upon positive portrayals of time travel or any "inaccurate" depictions of the past.

  • Until mid 2016, Lady Gaga was one of the best-received Western pop stars in China. That is, until she chose to meet with the Dalai Lama and post pictures of the meeting all over Instagram. Not only did that get her banned in China, but her Chinese fanbase was so disgusted that one went as far as to say, "the way the Chinese feel is just like you were shaking hands with bin Laden." Ouch.
  • Guns N' Roses have an album entitled Chinese Democracy. It was banned for the obvious reason.
  • The littlest things rile up the censors, apparently. The Pet Shop Boys album Yes was almost banned over the final track "Legacy", due to this verse: "Time will pass/governments fall/Glaciers melt/Hurricanes bawl" (emphasis added). Both parties allowed its release on the condition that the song be left as an instrumental.
  • The Chinese government occasionally attempts to ban, water down or censor Chinese things. China-based Visual Kei/gothic rock band Silver Ash, for example, have over the years come up against several tricky bits of legislation. One of them briefly forced them out of rock altogether, causing them to go on a lengthy hiatus.
  • Rather confusingly, one of the most popular rock bands in China, Miserable Faith, is famous for its songs about freedom and suppression, but it’s not banned. In fact, they still attend most of the rock festivals in China and "spread freedom".
  • Miley Cyrus is banned in China because she pulled a slant-eyed face in a hacked smartphone photo, a gesture interpreted by China to be mocking Asians.
  • During a Chinese tour, Björk began to chant "Tibet! Tibet!" during a performance of "Declare Independence". For this, she was deported and banned from re-entering the country, and her music was banned.
  • When The Rolling Stones played China as part of a world tour, they were specifically told by the government some of their songs were forbidden, such as "Brown Sugar", which was about an interracial sexual hook-up.
  • Kraftwerk is apparently not allowed to perform in Beijing for their commitment to perform in a Free Tibet concert (which was canceled due to bad weather).
  • Back in the 1960s, China banned its own National Anthem for a time. This occurred when the guy who wrote it was declared an enemy of the state during the Cultural Revolution. During those years, it was unofficially replaced by "The East Is Red", which glorified Mao's Cult of Personality.

  • Microsoft has a list of "banned words" that are discouraged in its speech recognition. "Tibet" is one of them due to strong Chinese sales.
  • The Chinese government banned the purchase of Windows 8 from internal use in retaliation of Microsoft's end of support for Windows XP.

    Tabletop Games 
  • China used to ban depictions of demons and human skeletons, so many Magic: The Gathering cards had their art altered for release there, and many others were simply not released in China. None of the Chinese finalists during this period made it far in the Pro Tour finals because they simply didn't know how to play with the full collection of cards. The ban was lifted in 2008.

  • The opera Turandot was banned for many years for depicting Chinese (read: unintelligible Eastern) culture unfavorably. The ban was repealed in the late 1990s, and the opera has been since been performed on a Chinese stage on at least one occasion. There is a particularly good DVD of it being performed in the Forbidden City with a large Chinese ensemble, suggesting that they have thoroughly gotten over the ban.
  • Downplayed with Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour, a Cirque du Soleil tour. At the first performance in China in 2013, the audience was shocked to see the famous image of the Tiananmen Square "Tank Man" during the "They Don't Care About Us" video montage, even though the show was prescreened by the country's Ministry of Culture. The image was cut for subsequent performances in the country.

    Video Games 
  • Between 2000 and 2013, China banned all video game consoles, largely because the government had very little control over what was released on them. Then Nintendo made the iQue Player specifically for the Chinese market, and that allowed China to ease into allowing importation of video games and consoles again, just with strict regulation of the type of game that can be imported.
  • China banned the strategy game Hearts of Iron and its sequel for depicting China as a fragmented nation split into various warlord factions in the main campaign, which begins on New Year's Day 1936. Also, Tibet is depicted as an independent state. The Chinese censors did approve a Game Mod which features a unified China.
  • Some Command & Conquer games have been banned in China, which doesn't stop them from being some of the most played and modded games there:
    • Command & Conquer: Generals — Zero Hour was banned for allegedly smearing the image of China and its military, which is shown in the games as being somewhat sympathetic, if a little brutal, nuke-happy, Geneva-prohibited-incendiary-weapons-happy, propaganda-happy, and land-mines-happy, though not suicide-happy and anthrax-happy like the GLA. This may also have to do with the depiction of a GLA nuclear attack in Tiananmen Square in the beginning of the Chinese Campaign in the original game.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is banned in China yet rather popular there. This may be because China wasn’t big on either the Soviet Union during the Cold War or Japan in various other conflicts.
  • I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike has been banned for "defamation of a national character" — in other words, for having an evil Chinese general as a boss monster.
  • Battlefield 4 is a weird situation. Many news reports in China reported that the game has been banned for allegedly discrediting China's national image and presenting a threat to national security as a "cultural invasion", and many sites in China banned "Battlefield 4" as a keyword. However, the game is very much completely playable in China since day 1. Chinese players investigated behind this strange "ban" of the game and came to the conclusion that a PLA news website published an article criticizing the game's contents (described above), and several tabloid news sites exaggerated the article, saying that the game was banned, creating a rumor that spreads through the entire Chinese internet and making all major sites shut down all information related to BF4 despite the officials never passing a formal ban on the game. A few years time after the release of the game, the internet clears up the rumor, and the ban on mentioning the word was lifted.
  • Having the North Koreans as bad guys in the FPS Crysis seems like a transparent attempt to avoid being banned in China. Set in the year 2020, they have landed on an island in the South China Sea, and possess gear more advanced than they would be likely to have, like a large guided missile cruiser and nanotech suits for their elite guard. Their presence in the region and their capabilities would seem much more plausible if they were Chinese. And if you look at early concept art and search through the game files, you will find that China was originally going to be the enemy human faction in game.
  • The game Homefront does basically the same thing: North Korea seemingly subjugates Japan and all of Southeast Asia before invading the US some 20 Minutes into the Future. Word of God confirms that the villains were originally going to be Chinese, but they changed it when they were told that this could result in not only the game but the entire development team being banned from China. Amusingly, the game's now banned in both Koreas.
  • Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a game placing the player in the role of a United States Marine as part of an operation to liberate a Russian oil-rich island from Chinese invaders. There is no attempt to disguise the enemy; they are blatantly the PLA, with weapons and equipment modeled as accurately as possible based on whatever information the developers could find. This was apparently enough to get it not banned in China. If this Google-translated article is to be believed, the game is appreciated for its accurate modeling of PLA gear and the opportunity to "play as the enemy."

    Web Originals 
  • Chinese Internet censorship is famous for its "Great Firewall", which filters all traffic through the country and blocks "subversive" or "objectionable" sites. Of course, the Chinese tend to know workarounds for this.
    • Part of the problem is ostensibly easy transfer of information; social networking sites like Facebook have been used to coordinate protests and political action the government doesn't like. But there are Chinese social networking sites, search engines, and video sharing sites, which presumably have an easier time monitoring their users and blocking sensitive content.
    • Blocked sites of note include Google's Blogspot, Flickr, Twitter, DeviantArt, and Facebook. Western news sites such as BBC News, CNN, and the New York Times are also banned. Most video sharing sites are also blocked, including YouTube, although everything other than the video servers is unblocked on certain college campuses. 4chan is not blocked; make of that what you will.
    • One way to circumvent the ban is to go through a Hong Kong search engine, including Hong Kong's versions of Google or Yahoo search, which you can probably access through a Chinese hotel's Internet connection. Hong Kong is not affected by the Great Firewall, but their sites might have terms of service prohibiting access to certain content from certain regions — which you can bypass by registering a US account and changing the browser's region.
    • If you want to see for yourself which of the most popular English-language websites are currently blocked or restricted in China, maintains a frequently-updated list.
  • In July 2009, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology encouraged computer manufacturers to include a censoring software called "Green Dam Youth Escort", either pre-installed or on CD, with every computer sold in China. The idea was to help "build a healthy and harmonious online environment that does not poison young people's minds." Of course, it was plagued by the Scunthorpe Problem in its poorly-written pornography filter (which was so sensitive that it even blocked pictures of Garfield and pigs, as they have large area of skin tones, and thus appear to be pornography), a password system that was so broken that it could be "cracked by elementary school students," and alleged plagiarism of blacklists and open source code from other software. The Internet being what it is, Green Dam was also not immune to Moe Anthropomorphism; she even has her very own doujinshi game.
  • Wikipedia alternates between full ban and ban of topics such as Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It's been more or less un-banned in English since 2013, but Chinese-language Wikipedias are completely blocked outside of some universities, which charge students for access.
  • On January 7th, 2016, Netflix made a surprise announcement that they have become available globally, and only four countries remaining can't get them. Three of the countries (Syria, Crimea, and North Korea) remained blocked due to US embargoes. The fourth is China, although Netflix is working on it.
  • This Very Wiki appears to be banned in China. This very page probably doesn't help.

    Western Animation 
  • China doesn't like non-Chinese animation set in or depicting China. The exceptions:
    • Mulan saw a limited release, in spite of predictions that it would be banned in retaliation for Disney financing Kundun. It even had Jackie Chan as the voice of Li Shang.
    • Kung Fu Panda saw release to great critical acclaim in China, which led the Chinese to wonder why they couldn't have made a movie like that themselves. (The main reason for that is that traditional Confucian values are so strict in terms of avoiding conflict, especially with one's elders, that many of the driving conflicts in the film would be unacceptable in China.) The Chinese fixed this by co-producing Kung Fu Panda 3.
  • The Simpsons episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan", where the family visits China, is banned in the country for pretty much everything, but particularly because of its unfavorable reference to Mao Zedong (Homer sees his body displayed in a mausoleum and says, "He's like a little angel who killed 50 million people."), scenes parodying the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and a Chinese government official who says, "Well, Tibet used to be pretty independent."

  • Various schools and municipalities in China have banned Christmas and other Western holidays.