Earlier this week, the Internet lit up with scoffing Tweets and posts about the fact that China’s official censors had once again targeted a beloved childhood cartoon: Winnie the Pooh. Internet users, especially those outside of The People’s Republic, couldn’t believe that an innocent bear stuffed with fluff and honey could be found so offensive as to require an official taboo by an entire government.
The reaction is a bit different with the latest piece of Western Pop Culture to be banned in China. News broke early this weekend that Justin Bieber was officially restricted from performing in China because of “bad behavior.”
Bieber, who started out as a pre-teen, YouTube heartthrob and turned quickly into one of the most popular bad boys of the current generation, is currently on what is being called a global “apology tour,” which is reportedly “intended to show a more mature side of a pop singer whose antics have drawn embarrassing headlines over the years.”
An official statement Tuesday from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture stated that Bieber had been banned from performances in China because of bad behavior both in the country and elsewhere.
“In order to maintain order in the Chinese market and purify the Chinese performance environment, it is not suitable to bring in badly behaved entertainers…WE hope that as Justin Bieber matures, he can continue to improve his own words and actions, and truly become a singer beloved by the public.”
Such a harsh reprimand rings rather paternalistic, like a parent taking away a child’s privileges until he can “shape up.”
One likely source of the Chinese government’s ire for the pop singer is not his “rock star antics,” as one might expect. In 2014, according to The New York Times, Bieber “caused a minor diplomatic row when he posted photos of himself visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japanese war dead—including convicted war criminals from World War II—and has long been a source of friction between Japan and its neighbors.”
The singer reportedly attempted an apology but that was rejected by the Chinese government. It seems, therefore, that this is less about “maturity” and more about politics and international diplomacy, with China actually lacking the maturity to “agree to disagree.”
Of course, looking at the recent censorship of a yellow, cartoon bear because he was used in memes to represent their president, the country’s lack of maturity or ability to get over these kinds of sleights shouldn’t be all that surprising.
That is not to say that war crimes are sleights not to be taken seriously; it just seems more petty than diplomatic to this reporter.