China’s billionaires are “scrambling”, says Rana Mitter in The Observer, after President Xi Jinping declared the country’s new goal: “common prosperity”. A crackdown on tech bosses and movie stars has already begun. Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, disappeared for three months in 2020 after criticising the authorities, actress Zheng Shuang has been told she owes $46m for “unpaid taxes” and her fellow performer Vicki Zhao Wei has been all but wiped from China’s internet. Now censors are coming after China’s “wild” celebrity fan culture, in particular something they see as a serious source of corruption: “sissy boys”, young male stars who wear make-up and appear “feminised”.
The drive for common prosperity and the desire to stamp out “sissy boys” point to a growing trend in Xi’s China – “the wish to eliminate difference”. It’s the same with Uighur inmates at “re-education camps” or children in Inner Mongolian being forced to learn Mandarin. The Chinese Communist Party may be right to worry about presiding over an economy that’s almost as unequal as America’s, with a quarter of the country living on less than $5.50 a day. But it seems the price of common prosperity is a flat culture with no variation, where anyone flaunting their wealth or, worse, their lengthy, unpatriotic skincare regime might at any moment disappear.