01/19/2024, 17.13
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China wants to block a Netflix series that looks at the Cultural Revolution

The US TV adaptation is based on “Three-Body Problem”, a novel by Chinese writer Liu Cixin. The production touches sensitive issues for China’s current leadership and its paramount leader Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, the Communist Party is taking on a greater role in the country's universities.


Beijing (AsiaNews) – China wants to stop a new Netflix series from being viewed in China. Adapted from a novel by a Chinese writer, it shows scenes from the Cultural Revolution.

Titled Three-Body Problem like the book, the TV drama contains highly charged scenes showing intellectuals being paraded for “vagrancy” at the height of the ideological war of the 1970s.

The relevant scenes appear in the trailer on Netflix Japan to the displeasure of China’s Communist Party at a time when the central government is tightening its control over universities to a degree not even seen at the time of Mao Zedong.

With respect to Netflix TV series, China’s Dazou network reported that the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered it to block the content about the Cultural Revolution in the US version of Three-Body Problem.

The production touches some sensitive points for China’s current leadership and Xi Jinping in particular.

In 2013 the official People's Daily newspaper published an article penned by Xi in person. In it, he writes: “People should not use the second 30 years (of the People's Republic) to repudiate the first 30 years, and vice versa.”

The Three-Body Problem is a television adaptation of a novel by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, the first in a science fiction novel series titled Remembrance of Earth's Past. Liu is considered the most important science fiction writer in the country.

American Alexander Woo is one of the writers and producers of the US Netflix series; his parents were born in Hong Kong.

This series is not the only one to have run up against Chinese censorship; Chinese director Hu Xueyang, currently living in France, experienced a similar treatment in connection with his 2007 film Shanghai 1976, also centred on the Cultural Revolution. The film was blocked by the Communist Party, as the author explains, for "absurd reasons”.

Speaking about the latest case of censorship, he praised this time the US film industry that for too long had “kowtowed to Beijing” for the sake of profits and market share. This time, it respected the author’s wishes.

Hong Kong director Tsang Kwok-cheung worked in the first two episodes of the series. Speaking to the Chinese service of Radio Free Asia (RFA), he said that “It is becoming increasingly difficult to depict that period (the history of the Cultural Revolution, especially its darkest moments) in any form.”

Yet. “it is a very important part of history. If we are honest, we can all learn from it if we face it seriously. It is important to show everyone how ridiculous that period was.”

Meanwhile, China’s communist leaders are taking on an increasing role in the country's universities, thanks to the merger of university party committees with the office of president.

Although the ruling party already has branches and committees in universities and other academic institutions, experts say it has never merged with their administrative structures before, not even during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

On Sunday, the party committee at Beijing's Tsinghua University announced that its office had merged with that of the university's president to form a new office to run the university.

Tsinghua's website was recently updated to reflect the changes in a page titled “Departmental Overview”.

But the capital’s university is not alone; these changes are being implemented across the country in a broad movement dubbed “one institution, two brands".

Among the institutions affected, we have Shanghai Jiaotong University, Southwest Jiaotong University, Sichuan University, Nanjing University, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Harbin Engineering University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, and Fuzhou University.

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