The China Syndrome

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The China Syndrome

Games and movies change to keep China happy.

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This is a fantastic sort of article that we need more of here

The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels. I mean people can still be persecuted for just having the wrong religion yet a lot of it's people seem to be happy and completely unaffected

Did they ban Fallout then?
Because its all about China going nuts on America and getting involved in a nuclear war.

I think I have a solution to keep both the Chinese and South Korean markets.

Make every nation-antagonist in all videogames Atlantis. That way nobody complains.

Sorry Aquaman.

tmande2nd:
Did they ban Fallout then?
Because its all about China going nuts on America and getting involved in a nuclear war.

I think they may have removed any mention of the Chinese from the game, but I'm not sure though. I know they changed the name of the Fat Man to the Nuka Launcher in Japan, so I imagine they must've done something similar for China.

Good read though. While I knew about Red Dawn, I had no idea Crysis and Homefront originally had the Chinese as the antagonists.

The odd thing about Crysis and Homefront is that before this article mentioned they had Koreans as enemies seemed to remember them being Chinese.

As for the rest of the article; very interesting read.
I'd say we need more articles like this here, but I won't because I can't really define what "like this" is except for words that don't really say much, like "good" and so forth.
Basically the Escapist needs more good articles?

BrotherRool:
This is a fantastic sort of article that we need more of here

The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels. I mean people can still be persecuted for just having the wrong religion yet a lot of it's people seem to be happy and completely unaffected

Thanks, I appreciate that! I'll be here every Thursday.

China is a strange place full of contradictions. It's a culture that's been around thousands of years, capped by a government whose political philosophies are less than a century old. They're supposedly Communist, but they have one of the largest capitalist markets in the world. They're major trade partners of the United States, and yet they regularly attack us through cyberspace as both sides build up Pacific fleets to counter the other. Added to that, there are major divisions between the older generation that grew up with Communism and the younger generation that's steeped in internet and consumer culture.

Basically, China is changing very rapidly while still trying to retain its cultural identity and strong central control. That makes it a really dynamic, interesting, and sometimes quite frightening place.

BrotherRool:
This is a fantastic sort of article that we need more of here

The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels. I mean people can still be persecuted for just having the wrong religion yet a lot of it's people seem to be happy and completely unaffected

There's an old Chinese proverb that roughly translates as "The montain is high, and the Emperor is far away." It describes exactly what you're saying, China is a big country and the Politburo can only effect so much.

Back on topic: This kind of article, dealing more with the politics and psychology of game design is always nice to see, they realy help to differentiate The Escapist from any other gaming website. Quite high-brow, keep it up.

Robert Rath:

BrotherRool:
This is a fantastic sort of article that we need more of here

The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels. I mean people can still be persecuted for just having the wrong religion yet a lot of it's people seem to be happy and completely unaffected

Thanks, I appreciate that! I'll be here every Thursday.

China is a strange place full of contradictions. It's a culture that's been around thousands of years, capped by a government whose political philosophies are less than a century old. They're supposedly Communist, but they have one of the largest capitalist markets in the world. They're major trade partners of the United States, and yet they regularly attack us through cyberspace as both sides build up Pacific fleets to counter the other. Added to that, there are major divisions between the older generation that grew up with Communism and the younger generation that's steeped in internet and consumer culture.

Basically, China is changing very rapidly while still trying to retain its cultural identity and strong central control. That makes it a really dynamic, interesting, and sometimes quite frightening place.

China my be officially communist but the reality is that very little has changed from the past. There is an all embracing bureaucracy which is largely corrupt and runs the country for the benefit of those at the top. The biggest difference is that there no longer an hereditary emperor but power shifts every 10 years. The bureaucracy is entirely unaccountable to anyone but themselves. The younger generation may be steeped in internet and consumer culture but that does not preclude them from Chinese nationalism. Those in charge know this and use the foreign bogeyman whenever possible.

On topic. Guess what just like google and apple, games studios act all anti establishment and against the man right up until the moment it threatens their commercial opportunities. Nothing new in that. An Iranian game featuring George Washington as a leader of French backed terrorists in the 18 century wouldn't sell that well in the US and undoubtedly some congressmen would jump and down and threaten retaliations. I'm not trying to justify China's position but companies aren't going to cut their own throat over it.

Now if only Homefront had been a better game we all really could have won.

Excellent article! I am looking forward to reading you every Thursday sir, keep up the good work.

I always wondered about this when stuff comes out with North Korea as the villains. I mean, North Korea physically invades the US? With every single one of their 25 million people (men, women, and children)? LA would stop them cold all on its own.

(Yeah, I read the Wikipedia article for it, and they do some interesting ballet to get North Korea into an actual power, but that can be safely ignored as impossible.)

I understand the financial reasons for making such changes, but it bothers me a lot that game and movie companies are so willing to cater to one country in the world. While China has a lot of people and is a potentially huge market (once the piracy issue is worked on), it's still one country, and I hate my products being subject to their censorship.

Also, the changes defy my ability to suspend disbelief. I can almost imagine (for example) an invasion by China. They have a lot of manpower, a good tech base and an aggressive history. North Korea though... imagining them invading the USA is rather like imagining a Pomeranian taking on a Rottweiler. The little Pom is going to get eaten, and the Rottweiler is barely going to notice. It's just not believable.

Royas:
I understand the financial reasons for making such changes, but it bothers me a lot that game and movie companies are so willing to cater to one country in the world. While China has a lot of people and is a potentially huge market (once the piracy issue is worked on), it's still one country, and I hate my products being subject to their censorship.

Also, the changes defy my ability to suspend disbelief. I can almost imagine (for example) an invasion by China. They have a lot of manpower, a good tech base and an aggressive history. North Korea though... imagining them invading the USA is rather like imagining a Pomeranian taking on a Rottweiler. The little Pom is going to get eaten, and the Rottweiler is barely going to notice. It's just not believable.

But on the other hand what's the point in writing a story where China, a country that the US is supposed to have friendly relations with, is the villain in the first place?I mean even when Russia's used as an enemy it's because some radical group organizes a coup or something, but when it's China, it's just... China that decides to take over the world. Obviously they would be pissed.

Now I'm not saying that they're not a country with problems or anything, but if you're supposed to be "friends" with someone you can't go around talking shit about them.

It's incredibly ironic that, by being so tight on regulating content against China, they actively make themselves look like they're hiding something and that they're assholes with a stick the size of a flagpole up their keester.

Still, North Korea being the big bad isn't as far fetched, seeing as neither Red Dawn or Homefront are based on real stories nor are they based in our reality. In their universe, NK might have been gathering recources and training in secret. Or whatever it may be.

Gatx:

Royas:
I understand the financial reasons for making such changes, but it bothers me a lot that game and movie companies are so willing to cater to one country in the world. While China has a lot of people and is a potentially huge market (once the piracy issue is worked on), it's still one country, and I hate my products being subject to their censorship.

Also, the changes defy my ability to suspend disbelief. I can almost imagine (for example) an invasion by China. They have a lot of manpower, a good tech base and an aggressive history. North Korea though... imagining them invading the USA is rather like imagining a Pomeranian taking on a Rottweiler. The little Pom is going to get eaten, and the Rottweiler is barely going to notice. It's just not believable.

But on the other hand what's the point in writing a story where China, a country that the US is supposed to have friendly relations with, is the villain in the first place?I mean even when Russia's used as an enemy it's because some radical group organizes a coup or something, but when it's China, it's just... China that decides to take over the world. Obviously they would be pissed.

Now I'm not saying that they're not a country with problems or anything, but if you're supposed to be "friends" with someone you can't go around talking shit about them.

That is another element to it. It seems to me that if game companies want to appeal to the Chinese, they shouldn't really be portraying them as murderous villains in the first place. I thought we were passed the whole soulless Soviet propaganda movie thing in the 80s, but it seems were still okay with telling the same story even today.

The best way around it would be to simply cast the protagonist as a non-American, thus allowing you to pick and choose which nation is antagonising the hero. It is just as tasteless, but at least you can pick a nation who's inevitable boycotting of your game will be negligable in terms of sales. Might as well go full bastard with this sort of thing.

Gatx:

Royas:
I understand the financial reasons for making such changes, but it bothers me a lot that game and movie companies are so willing to cater to one country in the world. While China has a lot of people and is a potentially huge market (once the piracy issue is worked on), it's still one country, and I hate my products being subject to their censorship.

Also, the changes defy my ability to suspend disbelief. I can almost imagine (for example) an invasion by China. They have a lot of manpower, a good tech base and an aggressive history. North Korea though... imagining them invading the USA is rather like imagining a Pomeranian taking on a Rottweiler. The little Pom is going to get eaten, and the Rottweiler is barely going to notice. It's just not believable.

But on the other hand what's the point in writing a story where China, a country that the US is supposed to have friendly relations with, is the villain in the first place?I mean even when Russia's used as an enemy it's because some radical group organizes a coup or something, but when it's China, it's just... China that decides to take over the world. Obviously they would be pissed.

Now I'm not saying that they're not a country with problems or anything, but if you're supposed to be "friends" with someone you can't go around talking shit about them.

Because on the grand political stage, China is the last real military opponent for the U.S. unless the U.S. decides to nuke Europe. Making the enemy a tangible thread in a game means giving you a reason to be scared of them. What is scarier than an army almost as well equipped as ours, with nukes, and WAY more people and soldiers, all willing to die for propaganda?

I live and teach in China, and this was an interesting article. Someone brought up the Fallout franchise. As far as I can tell the one that was pirated and put out in China, (Because people here don't pay money for RPGs only micro-transactions) still shows China as the main enemy. Many of my students liked that because it shows China winning at war or being strong or something. It's really only the government that doesn't want to be seen as corrupt. It's like how politicians in the U.S. think people can't tell the difference between game worlds and the real worlds because someone goes crazy once in awhile. The PRC thinks that anything put out there fictionally must also mean that people believe it to be like 100% true...

P.S. In the piracy mentioned above I am not saying I DLed it and I know piracy is not a topic I should talk about, but I need to make it clear that there are the versions that is released in China and then there are pirated and hacked versions which are much more common and usually not neutered.

Gatx:
[quote="Royas" post="6.390484.15713846"]Now I'm not saying that they're not a country with problems or anything, but if you're supposed to be "friends" with someone you can't go around talking shit about them.

Why not? It seems to be how several countries do things. Look at Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as great examples.

China is a country that's doing the best it can to build their image as a superpower, but if you know how and where to look, you can see their entire house is made of cards and drywall mud. I'm still trying to figure out where in space China sends 322 million dollars worth of exports every year that don't go to any country on Earth.

BrotherRool:
The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels.

As an American, I wanna say the exact same thing about my country.

(Though) Ironically, as an American, I'm actually allowed to.

Awesome article. I look forward to the next instalment!

We love to trade with a country that has a shocking record of human-rights abuses, and with a cultural need to save face.

Heaven help if you offend them, all their valuable $ will forever be lost to you!

maninahat:

That is another element to it. It seems to me that if game companies want to appeal to the Chinese, they shouldn't really be portraying them as murderous villains in the first place. I thought we were passed the whole soulless Soviet propaganda movie thing in the 80s, but it seems were still okay with telling the same story even today.

The best way around it would be to simply cast the protagonist as a non-American, thus allowing you to pick and choose which nation is antagonising the hero. It is just as tasteless, but at least you can pick a nation who's inevitable boycotting of your game will be negligable in terms of sales. Might as well go full bastard with this sort of thing.

This happened in John Marsden's "Tomorrow When the War Began", where Australia gets invaded by a military force that isn't named. But I guess it is easier in a book when you don't even have to describe the invaders, unlike a movie were you have to see them.

The movie, if I remember correctly, cased the invaders as Asian, but never explicitly says what country they're from. So the audience can decide if its a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or even a coalition army thats invaded.

Seriously if they can have a tin pot dictator and his impoverished country take over the world why can't we have Australia take over the world that would be hilarious especially since we would be defeated the second a public holiday came around and we would all be piss drunk.

GTwander:

BrotherRool:
The whole China thing is weird though, because I know lots of chinese people or people with chinese parents and they're always very proud of their home country and want to show off it's achievements and successes, but China also does one 1984 style thing after another. It's weird, like the people and the government exist in two completely different places and the events happen on completely different levels.

As an American, I wanna say the exact same thing about my country.

(Though) Ironically, as an American, I'm actually allowed to.

I was wondering about this, what with the London riots, extraordinary extradition, third-party torture, some of the more draconian policies we've invented , China loves to throw this sort of thing in Britain's face and I was wondering if maybe it's just a media impression thing and in the US you've got Guantanomo etc and Julian Assuange, but then like you said, as British person I'm allowed to complain and we don't do things anywhere near the extent described in this article and we don't filter youtube and Google (although the UK's trying to catch up on that one)

China is a highly nationalistic country and ALWAYS acts out against what it deems as unfair or racist material(s). Of course the west are arrogant in the way they portray China and it is never fair [to China] - the only fair portray of China is one where China wins totally.

Thus the reaction is always over the top and the follow-through effect is that nobody want to touch your product in case they get punished too.

Grumpy Ginger:
Seriously if they can have a tin pot dictator and his impoverished country take over the world why can't we have Australia take over the world that would be hilarious especially since we would be defeated the second a public holiday came around and we would all be piss drunk.

I'd actually like to see a movie with that premise.

On topic: well...it's china. it's more afraid of change than any other country and on top of that corrupt and easily offended to hell and back, so...

Have we forgotten that china is well ????

image

So no I'm not for " censoring " to appease CHINA. Next thing you'll want to do is censor these games here in the usa.

Robert Rath:

BrotherRool:
snip

Thanks, I appreciate that! I'll be here every Thursday.

China is a strange place full of contradictions. It's a culture that's been around thousands of years, capped by a government whose political philosophies are less than a century old. They're supposedly Communist, but they have one of the largest capitalist markets in the world. They're major trade partners of the United States, and yet they regularly attack us through cyberspace as both sides build up Pacific fleets to counter the other. Added to that, there are major divisions between the older generation that grew up with Communism and the younger generation that's steeped in internet and consumer culture.

Basically, China is changing very rapidly while still trying to retain its cultural identity and strong central control. That makes it a really dynamic, interesting, and sometimes quite frightening place.

Good article. I've been living and working here for over 14 years now, and you have quite accurately presented some of the more interesting and/or bewildering aspects of Chinese society and governmental policy.

However, the concept of a "ban" here, as pertaining to art/media, really amounts to little more than "empty policy" for the sake of nationalistic propaganda. This is not just due to piracy, the grey market, or having the largest tech-savvy online population in the world. Rather, it's a matter of contradictory policy within the republic itself. A prime example of this is the fact that I have ordered and purchased uncensored, original copies of games through Hong Kong for at least the past 10 years.

These games come to the mainland via regular registered post, and are often inspected by customs prior to delivery. There is nothing "grey" about it. I'm talking about the uncensored Asian versions of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the Splinter Cell HD collection (one installment of which tasks Sam Fisher with some VERY touchy espionage/wet work- fans of the series will immediately recognise this reference), and even Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. This last title is not a good game, but the similarities between it and the current dispute regarding Diaoyu Islands are striking, albeit with the added incendiary element of American troops thrown into a fictional conflict with PRC troops. My point is that these titles are all available to me on mainland China, from a "special administrative region" of the PRC, without the need to resort to piracy or a grey market.

Now, take such inherent contradictions and combine them with a young, wired-in population that has a higher standard of education than ever before, and then attempt to contain all of this within a system of control that conforms to both a strictly communist nationalistic dogma AND a frenzied capitalistic mantra.
The result is an untenable bubble, and that is the bigger issue. No amount of "artistic tiptoeing" is going to alter that, nor does it even significantly affect sales or publicity within the PRC.

The situation certainly is dizzyingly dynamic, incredibly interesting...and more than a little frightening.

Dr.Panties:

Good article. I've been living and working here for over 14 years now, and you have quite accurately presented some of the more interesting and/or bewildering aspects of Chinese society and governmental policy.

However, the concept of a "ban" here, as pertaining to art/media, really amounts to little more than "empty policy" for the sake of nationalistic propaganda. This is not just due to piracy, the grey market, or having the largest tech-savvy online population in the world. Rather, it's a matter of contradictory policy within the republic itself. A prime example of this is the fact that I have ordered and purchased uncensored, original copies of games through Hong Kong for at least the past 10 years.

These games come to the mainland via regular registered post, and are often inspected by customs prior to delivery. There is nothing "grey" about it. I'm talking about the uncensored Asian versions of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the Splinter Cell HD collection (one installment of which tasks Sam Fisher with some VERY touchy espionage/wet work- fans of the series will immediately recognise this reference), and even Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. This last title is not a good game, but the similarities between it and the current dispute regarding Diaoyu Islands are striking, albeit with the added incendiary element of American troops thrown into a fictional conflict with PRC troops. My point is that these titles are all available to me on mainland China, from a "special administrative region" of the PRC, without the need to resort to piracy or a grey market.

Now, take such inherent contradictions and combine them with a young, wired-in population that has a higher standard of education than ever before, and then attempt to contain all of this within a system of control that conforms to both a strictly communist nationalistic dogma AND a frenzied capitalistic mantra.
The result is an untenable bubble, and that is the bigger issue. No amount of "artistic tiptoeing" is going to alter that, nor does it even significantly affect sales or publicity within the PRC.

The situation certainly is dizzyingly dynamic, incredibly interesting...and more than a little frightening.

Great comment, thanks for sharing that.

You're absolutely right that the "grey market" really isn't that grey at all (my research tended to refer to buying games through the HK SAR as part of the grey market, but maybe there was a distinction I wasn't seeing) and frankly a lot of customs officials either don't care or can't tell one game from another, even when they're looking for contraband. I've written some stuff about games getting banned in Mexico for depicting the Cartel War and it's much the same thing - the ban itself is toothless and largely symbolic, since with a passport and a daytime work visa you can just stroll across the border and buy anything you want at an American GameStop. After all, border guards are more concerned about searching for drugs and assault rifles, and the idea that they'd go out of their way to confiscate a videogame is more than a little silly.

It's definitely obvious in the public sphere that game bans have little effect. I recently saw a Chinese film called Lee's Adventure where the protagonist had an Xbox 360 and pirated games, and the film treated it like a fact of life rather than some kind of illicit commodity.

Funny that you brought up Operation Flashpoint. I read somewhere that the government actually reversed their position on the game when someone pointed out that you could play as Chinese soldiers in the multiplayer. I left it out of the article because I couldn't source anything better than a forum rumor, but it was interesting nonetheless. And your point about the Daiyou Islands - wow, that really hits home. Didn't consider that until you mentioned it.

Amethyst Wind:
I think I have a solution to keep both the Chinese and South Korean markets.

Make every nation-antagonist in all videogames Atlantis. That way nobody complains.

Sorry Aquaman.

Yeah, if the enemies don't represent people who don't exist in reality, no one has a right to feel offended.

I'd like to echo others above in saying that this was an excellent article. Hope to see more from you! (Thursdays, you say?)

I just clicked to see what the fuck is The China Syndrome, and actually found an interesting and informative article. Thank you.

Rainforce:

Grumpy Ginger:
Seriously if they can have a tin pot dictator and his impoverished country take over the world why can't we have Australia take over the world that would be hilarious especially since we would be defeated the second a public holiday came around and we would all be piss drunk.

I'd actually like to see a movie with that premise.

Haha, "Quick, we need broadcast to all resistance groups we have found their fatal weakness: alcohol!"

Yes! I love this article

These companies willingly adopt and empower Chinese propaganda in their media not just for China but for Worldwide consumption. Utterly spineless and a backhand to anyone who's fought for the U.S. Constitution. On July 4th will Blizzard sensor any mention of Tienanmen Square in their chat rooms in China, perhaps Worldwide? You bet your ass. Anyone who nakedly adopts Chinese principals of censorship and promotes them worldwide through media should live in China.

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