Porn crackdown targets online fiction

Coinciding with a Wired magazine article hailing China's burgeoning market for online novels, China announced a crackdown on obscene online fiction. The dragnet has already snared 348 websites, accused of publishing "disgusting" written content that could "easily poison the minds of young people."

This anti-vice operation seems a strange use of China's resources. Written pornography isn't as scintillating as pornographic photographs or movies, which are widely available online and off. And even if this crackdown is part of China's general push to "clean up" before the Olympics, online written pornography isn't in the same category of behaviors that will be obvious to foreign visitors, like spitting, queue-jumping, or wandering around the hutong without a shirt on.

This crackdown also seems to undermine China's policy of fostering a "prosperous" Internet culture. In speeches to the Central Party Conference in January and April this year, Hu Jintao emphasized the importance of promoting a prosperous Internet market and culture.

But expunging pornography from the Internet doesn't make for a prosperous Internet. As Chinese blogger Lao Bai has noted, behind every successful website in China is a naked woman. (He's not alone: Broadway's Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q features a song called "The Internet is for porn.")

Perhaps most poignantly, the day Xinhua ran its announcement of the crackdown, Northeast Network published an article arguing that information about sexual techniques in the classic erotic texts of ancient China was both more abundant and more profound than anything available in the West. The article recounts that when Westerners began traveling the Silk Road and gained exposure to Eastern sexual culture, they were "dumbfounded."

Your correspondent whole-heartedly agrees that sexual explicitness in China's classical written texts signals the advanced nature of ancient Chinese culture. If China manages to purge its modern cultural texts of sexually-explicit writing, what will future generations think?

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There are currently 4 Comments for Porn crackdown targets online fiction.

Comments on Porn crackdown targets online fiction

Maya, sex appears to be one of the most obvious outlets for asserting one's individuality and energy in such a restrictive society. The crackdown is another attempt to steer the outward face of the nation to an imagined gloriously moral past and future. With Big Brother determining what is and isn't pornographic, it will be interesting to see whether the courts take any role in interpretation, or if there is a blind and bland one-rule-fits-all application of directives from on high. I don't hold out much hope for a judiciary-inspired solution.

Todd, thanks for this thoughtful comment. I agree that the judiciary isn't likely to be a source of relief in the obscenity/pornography realm. In the US, the federal courts were drawn into the issue on First Amendment grounds, but there doesn't seem to be a comparable legal hook in China that would allow citizens to challenge the government's determination that something is "obscenity" (putting completely to one side, for the moment, the complicated issue of whether a Chinese citizen could even sue its government on such grounds). It'll be interesting to see what institutions in China emerge to arbitrate this and such other issues of individual identity.

Likely this will become another matter of "policy" application, so that we will see alternating tightening and loosening of the restrictions. In the meantime, enterprising individuals and other entities will find ways to circumvent the restrictions to satisfy this most basic demand.

I'm not sure how relevant is this, but it's hard to blame any type of authority to find ways of regulating what is obscene or not, especially if it is related to sexuality. There is the issue regarding the first amendment in the US about websites and human sexuality, at least the websites post some kind of warning or demand that you are an adult (not that it has stop any minors from accessing the site).
Sexuality is a natural and very powerful instinct in human beings, next to survival. However, it can be quite destructive to the body, mind and soul if it can not be express in a healthy way. (Based form an Orthodox Jewish position) One of the few natural traits that can affect other people, so any issue regarding sexuality should not be taken too lightly.

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