The progeny of China’s rich and famous can have a hard time sticking to the socialist script that’s in fashion these days under President Xi Jinping. But at least now, their excesses won’t be broadcast to the world. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has banned children of celebrities from appearing on reality-TV shows, according to an April 17 story carried by Xinhua, the state newswire.
Over the past few years, national airwaves have been deluged by reality shows featuring the pampered scions of China’s elite, often as they try to adjust to the kind of underprivileged existences the vast majority of Chinese live. The new regulations are supposedly designed to protect minors who could be exploited by stage parents — or money-hungry TV networks. Last fall, children younger than 10 were barred from serving as spokeskids in Chinese advertising campaigns. Yet tiny actors are still a mainstay in variety shows produced by state broadcaster CCTV, belting out patriotic songs or twirling to synthesized beats.
Instead, the prohibition may have more to do with discomfort with showing how China’s 1% — particularly its junior one-percenters — live. Since taking office more than three years ago, President Xi has tried to make the ruling Chinese Communist Party more relevant to people in an era when China’s wealth gap has widened alarmingly. Hundreds of thousands of wayward cadres have been netted in Xi’s anticorruption campaign, which stresses austere living for officials — banquet menus, for example, are only to consist of “four dishes, one soup,” rather than a table laden with delicacies.
But the national appeal to asceticism is undercut when spoiled Chinese youth, often single progeny born of the one-child family planning policy, spend their early hours revving their Ferraris or dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a single karaoke outing. Known as fuerdai (second-generation rich) or guanerdai (second-generation officials), these privileged kids can seem more interested in spending their parents’ wealth — itself only a generation old — rather than making their own billions.
In one infamous example, Wang Sicong — the son of Wang Jianlin, a real estate and entertainment magnate often considered China’s richest man — posted a picture on social media of his pet dog wearing not one but two gold Apple watches. Earlier this month, Coco, who is an Alaskan breed with her own social-media account, celebrated her second birthday with balloons, cakes and a pack of canine friends. Last year, Chinese state media attacked the younger Wang, with Xinhua opining that the now 28-year-old “recklessly disseminates vulgar information” that leads to the “worship of money” and “sex and violence.”
Another scion of China’s elite was at the heart of a political scandal that is still reshaping power politics. Ling Gu — the son of Ling Jihua, the former aide-de-camp to Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao — died in a Ferrari crash four years ago in Beijing. His car companions reportedly included a pair of women in states of undress. The elder Ling’s downfall began after reports emerged that he had tried to cover up the accident; last year he was formally charged with accepting bribes, among other alleged misdeeds.
Xi’s administration has tried to rein in fuerdai, even as other members of China’s gilded class complain that their reputations are being unfairly sullied by a few show-offs. Last year, more than 70 children of billionaires from Fujian province were ordered to attend classes to promote their sense of patriotism and social responsibility, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. Meanwhile, Tian Liang, a former Olympic diver who appeared on the first season of Dad! Where Are We Going? with his then 5-year-old daughter, seems to have had second thoughts about their turn on the hit reality-TV show. Tian, who himself retired from diving after state sports authorities assailed him for spending too much time chasing endorsements and not gold medals, rued how his daughter showed more interest in commercial opportunities than in the classroom. He is discouraging Cindy, as his daughter is called in English, from spending more time in the entertainment world.
— With reporting by Yang Siqi / Beijing