China’s Wave of Crackdowns Hits the Entertainment Industry

China’s Wave of Crackdowns Hits the Entertainment Industry
Chinese President Xi Jinping leading other top officials pledging their vows to the party during a gala show ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, Beijing, China June 28, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

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Up until late August, Zhao Wei was one of the biggest stars in mainland China. Having shot to fame in the late 90s with the television drama My Fair Princess, the 45-year-old eventually became a household name, with a net worth of $1 billion. But almost overnight, the actress and singer was scrubbed off the internet. Her songs, as well as the many talk shows, television dramas and films she starred in, have since disappeared from streaming platforms, while other studios and production companies have dropped her name from cast lists of their productions.

Zhao is by no means the first celebrity to run afoul of Chinese authorities, but a lack of official explanation for her abrupt erasure has sparked wild speculations and sent a chill across the entertainment industry. Some observers pointed to a 2017 investment scandal involving Zhao and her husband that led to a 5-year ban from the Chinese securities market. Others wondered if Zhao was caught up in the crackdown on Alibaba, as the billionaire actress was a stakeholder in the group’s film company, Alibaba Pictures, and was seen on many occasions rubbing shoulders with the group’s now-disgraced founder, Jack Ma. Other celebrities, including fellow actors Huang Xiaoming and Yang Zi, were quick to distance themselves from Zhao, unfollowing her on social media and deleting mentions of her from their digital platforms.

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