China’s Government Is Targeting ‘Sissy’ Men, with Devastating Consequences

Yves here. There is already enough pressure for men to be manly that gender-bending men are pretty certain to be acting on deeply-seated desires, as opposed to corrupted by fads and fashion, as China appears to believe.1

With a gender ratio like this, which equates to not enough men being able to get laid unless you assume a pretty high level of prostitution and/or unfaithful female spouses, you’d think China would accept “deviations” from male norms as alleviating pressure on a severe gender imbalance:

Having said that, one long-standing outlet for surplus males is the military…And I wish this article was more inquisitive about what China is trying to accomplish with aggressive enforcement of gender norms. It certainly isn’t helpful in encouraging young families to have more girls if men are prized. And this level of social control does not look consistent with confident leadership.

By contrast, the Thais embrace gender fluidity, and depending on who is doing the counting, has anywhere from 11 to 18 identities.

By Xinting Wang. An edited article which first appeared on gal-dem, cross posted from openDemocracy

Reaching for his foundation and beauty blender, Pan Ning tells gal-dem that men like him are not welcomed in his country. “Society expects men to be warriors and accuses effeminate boys of being ‘perverts’,” says the 23-year-old college graduate, speaking via Zoom from Shanghai, China.

In recent years, the Chinese government has been fighting to eradicate what it deems “abnormal” gender aesthetics– such as an androgynous wardrobe and boys wearing heavy make-up – in schools and the entertainment industry. But their campaign has stepped up a notch recently, following the rise in popularity and style of ‘effeminate’ male idols.

Aiming to develop a “healthy” cultural environment for the next generation and to succeed in “national rejuvenation” (President Xi Jinping’s plan for the country to enter a new era), the Chinese government has introduced a raft of legislation affecting popular culture and society. It is waging a war against what it deems to be unorthodox masculine expressions, in an attempt to “save our boys” from the so-called “masculinity crisis”.

The latest example came in early January, when the state’s National Radio and Television Administration banned love dramas and talent shows centring boys, following last September’s banon ‘sissy’ male celebrity idols.

China’s ‘masculinity crisis’ stems from long-standing reinforced stereotypes of genders and homophobia, according to Lü Pin, a leading Chinese feminist activist who has been fighting gender-based discrimination since the late 1990s. “Women are considered inferior, obedient and are not able to retain power in the office,” Lü tells gal-dem via phone from New Jersey, US, where she now lives. “That’s why, when boys don’t conform to gender norms as a masculine tough guy, the government gets worried. They are afraid that men will lose their dominant power in everything.”

‘Training Boys To Be Real Men’

The proclamations have come from different layers of the Chinese government, largely aimed at male teenagers. State media has played a role too, reinforcing this messaging by arguing that a lack of exercise has spoiled many young men and made them too ‘soft’ for the military.

In 2018, military training programmes emerged all over the country, designed to “train boys to be real men”. The Real Boys Club, founded in 2012 in Beijing, teaches boys to play golf and American football, and to go sailing.

In January last year, China’s education ministry responded to a proposal on preventing the “feminisation” of male teenagers, saying that the country should recruit more gym instructors to improve male students’ “masculinity power”.

And in May, top politician Si Zefu argued that Chinese male teenagers have “characteristics of weakness, low self-esteem and timidity” and these ‘sissy’ boys may be “a threat to the development and survival of the nation”. Si further claimed that the country’s loss of masculinity lies in the “feminine environment” that most children were raised in.

The “save our boys” slogan has been taking root in schools across the nation for four years. A primary school principal working in Hangzhou (the capital of Zhejiang province), who gave her name as ‘Zhou’, told gal-dem that since 2018 her institution had started hiring more male teachers and implementing more physical training activities, in response to state pressure.

“The policies make us worried that if we have too many female teachers, then we may be in trouble,” says Zhou. “We are taking the gender ratio into account more seriously these days.”

Targeting ‘Abnormal Aesthetics’

It’s not only in schools that traditional, heteronormative notions of masculinity are being enforced. Since 2019, the “boy crisis” campaign has turned a harsh spotlight on  male celebrities. Many male celebrities’ tattoos, earrings and ponytails have been blurred out online, in accordance with the country’s campaign to put an end to ‘girlie’ appearances.

The language of the regulations introduced in September last year made the government’s stance clear, boycotting the appearances of ‘girly’ male idols by using the Chinese sexual slur niang pao, or ‘sissy’. The regulation further claimed that these “abnormal aesthetics” would corrupt the next generation.

“Regulations have shaped the culture,” says Lü, with a dry laugh. “It should be the other way around.”

‘Little fresh meat’, or xiao xian rou– meaning male idols associated with soft masculinity – are now becoming the target of government officials. As ‘idol’ talent shows such as Youth with You, Chuang (the Chinese version of Japan’s Produce 101),where audiences vote for their favourite contestants to form a pop girl or boy group, have gone viral in China,many male celebrities have been adopting the kind of make-up worn by K-pop stars, and sporting glamorous jewellery.

Cultural influences from across the East Asia region have helped shape different expressions of gender in China. “Many of China’s biggest young male stars in recent years have challenged traditional masculine ideals, thanks in large part to the influence of Korean pop,” said Dr Wang Shuaishuai, a digital culture lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, in an interview with the BBC last December.

However, these well-groomed male celebrities have sparked the ire of the Chinese government. In turn, high-profile idols are taking note: China’s leading pop singer, Cai Xukun, notably altered his style immediately following the government’s September decree, swapping lace shirts for sports vests.

“These regulations shouldn’t control what we want to see on TV,” says Pan. “We are hoping to see diverse gender representations.”

Despite government efforts, millennial gender identities have become more fluid in the past few years. On social media platforms such as Weibo and Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), hundreds of male influencers are sharing beauty tips online as more young men have become increasingly appearance-conscious. In addition, drag influencers are also taking up the space to educate netizens on diverse gender roles.

According to QuestMobile’s 2021 Male Consumption Insight Report, the number of active followers of Chinese male beauty influencers reached 185 million last April. Also, between 2019 and 2021, the annual online spending power of male consumers in beauty and cosmetics increased from 104 million RMB (renminbi,  China’s unit of currency – equivalent to £12m) to 122 million (£14m).

And while different expressions of gender and sexuality have gained representation and visibility in recent years, many believe that the regulations targeting ‘sissy men’ pose a threat to LGBTQ+ communities in China.

For some, the regulations seem to be already having a deadly impact. Last November, the body of 26-year-old blogger Zhou Peng was discovered in Zhoushan (in Zhejiang province). Zhou had died by suicide; in a note uploaded to his Sina Weibo account on 28 November, the influencer had spoken of his distress at childhood bullying for “looking like a girl” and being called “sissy”.

Although Zhou stressed that his death “has nothing to do with anyone”, in the wake of the tragedy, Chinese netizens are debating the impact of the state’s masculinity campaign on the mental health of young men.

The crisis has brought paint to both women and men. As a person who is actively exploring his gender identity, Pan says that it is nearly impossible to live as a man with an effeminate character. “Society looks down upon women and LGBTQ+ communities,” he comments. “I guess only tough straight guys are allowed to breathe in the country.”

Chao Xiaomi, a non-binary blogger who has 13,000 followers on Weibo, told gal-dem that “society expects men to be competitive, to be the sole breadwinner in the house. However, there are many people like me who do not fit into the mainstream gender stereotypes. Women can be tough and competitive as well.”

Some experts have highlighted that the tightened controls over gender roles and stereotypes has intentionally coincided with a time of rising nationalism, led by President Xi’s “wolf warrior diplomacy”, which has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lü is worried that the raft of regulations may choke off diverse gender representations in the country. “China’s rising nationalism is often associated with the ableism of masculinity,” she says. “If you do not conform to the government rules to achieve national rejuvenation, then you are not patriotic. The government first ‘erased’ people with different political beliefs out of the country, and now it is coming after people with different ways of living.”


1 I have known some gay men who had such terrible relations with their mothers that they might be thought of as gyno-phobic, but they nevertheless also were attracted to men.

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  1. KD

    I have read some interesting studies on wars of attrition, suggesting that when a country loses about 30% of its fighting age male population, it generally surrenders. Obviously, the more young men capable of military service, the stronger their ability to project force and the greater its potential for hard power.

    Additionally, I have NOT seen this issue studied (and I’m not surprised) but anecdotally, it seems like manly men and feminine females make the most babies, so it probably helps the fertility crisis. In other words, this sounds like what you do if you are a realist, you want to make your nation stronger, in the short term increasing your conscript pool and in the long term increasing your future population.

    On the other hard, China’s approach assumes that there is an objective reality that places constraints on human possibilities, and understands that constraint is in the first instance the ability to project force. Obviously, if you can just call everything the opposite of what is and thereby make it so, and geopolitics is really just a question of who has the best public relations campaign and patting yourself on the back for being “exceptional” and the “good guys”, then you don’t have to worry about these things and you can just elevate the cult of the individual choice. Obviously, China is the bad guy because they act like there is something called “objective reality” that can kill you if you ignore it, and the whole cult of the God of the Copy-Book Headings is not very cool.

    1. Fritzi

      History definitely shows all kinds of examples of men being quite capable of military service, that probably wouldn’t have fit at least some of the current definition of manly men.

      I don’t see why a preference for wearing dresses in their free time, liking girly music or being gay would necessarily make anyone unsuited to be a soldier.

      The ancient Greeks and Romans weren’t that concerned with who their soldiers familyblogged.

      Of course, it was just expected until pretty recently that every guy would sure children, and every gal would best them, regardless of inclination.

      In that case, China might be more successful and efficient with mandatory spermdonation from the dudes.

      I don’t think that would be particularly difficult.

      Mandatory birthing would be more difficult to enforce (and it should be pointed out that the Nazis tried plenty of radical stuff to get birthrates up and failed hard), and trying to set up the Chinese version of Gilead would be not that great for China’s reputation.

      So they perhaps should invest heavily in building artificial wombs.

      There has been plenty of research in that direction.

      With little to show for now, apparently, but they may have better chances of success in that direction.

      Factory producing the next generations would certainly have plenty of advantages.

      And western corporations would surely love getting into it, once the Chinese have demonstrated it can be done.

      1. KD

        Plutonium Ken is undoubtedly right that some of this is about birth rates, and that it is politically easier to push manly men than it is to run women out of the labor market. However, it is, I believe, wrong to suppose that the Chinese regime is invariably sexist. Mao pushed gender equality pretty hard in his time, and it does not appear that the regime is explicitly anti-feminist. They have de-platformed some more radical feminist voices (the way Twitter has silenced some of the more radical manosphere voices), but it seems like they are trying for more balance, rather than embracing some kind of reactionary agenda.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    I think this campaign comes from a complex number of concerns, some deep rooted in Chinese history, some related to more modern politicking.

    On an historic basis, its difficult to exaggerate how important the perception of China having been emasculated by its 19th Century and early 20th century subjugation and defeats has been to the modern Chinese leadership. How much this feeds into gender stereotypes and roles I don’t know, but it was an obvious feature of the early years of Maoism that in the name of equality women were de-feminised and made to equal men in the fields and factories (while also doing most of the household work). The modern Chinese State sees itself with obvious justification as a leader in Asia and the world and I suspect has a little contempt for the way that countries like Japan have settled for a more comfortable consumerism.

    There are also of course strong demographic issues. We’ve seen how in Korea a strong preference for boys in the 1980’s and 1990’s is now feeding into a huge problem with a surfeit of young men and all the problems that go with it. This isn’t a particular problem in a fast growing society as they can be absorbed into heavy construction work, but as Korea has transitioned economically to a more service based economy (i.e. one favouring female workers) this has led to a wave of young men who feel badly betrayed. But this hasn’t ‘feminised’ Korea – in fact its the opposite, as there has been a huge wave of anti-feminist, very conservative and right wing politics among a very specific demographic of young male Koreans. So whatever is motivating China, its not what is happening in Korea, which is a decade or two ahead in the demographic and economic curve.

    I suspect that the leadership is most concerned about the increasing dependency ratio. China is ‘equal’ in the workplace insofar as women are exposed to just as much pressure as men to get ahead, with the inevitable result that couples are too overworked to have children. I suspect that there is a belief that they can head off some problems with the weakening of family life by encouraging a more traditional nuclear family. But focusing on creating ‘real men’ may be seen as easier than pressuring women to not focus too much on paid work.

    Another element that may be relevant is that so far as I can tell, certain waves of anti-feminist politics from the US is surprisingly popular in parts of China. Its anecdotal, and completely random, but two unconnected Chinese female acquaintances of mine a few years ago used to regularly send me links to various incel/Jorden Peterson fanboy websites and youtube channels. I’d no idea what the attraction was, but there seemed to have been an underlying belief that the west is ‘feminising’ and growing weak and flabby, and China must avoid this. Most of my female Chinese contacts are very casually homophobic and openly contemptuous of gay men, so this isn’t just a case of an insecure male leadership as western liberals might like to think.

    All the above are just guesses though – I’ve been following Chinese affairs long enough to know that ‘takes’ on China by various gender based pressure groups in the west are invariably almost reliably wrongheaded, even if they are written by Chinese people (there is quite an industry of Chinese writers feeding western stereotypes). My best guess would be that the main motivation of this is to reverse what the CCP may see as the distortions created by the forced ‘equality’ of earlier generations.

    1. KD

      I can’t wait to read some NYT’s articles putting Xi on the psychiatrist’s couch in order to explain China’s approach here.

    2. Anonymous

      There are plenty of feminists here in the UK who are openly anti-transgender, so it is not just China. JK Rowling, Julie Bindel etc.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I don’t think it has anything to do with arguments over transgenders, at least not as understood in the West, which has its own bizarre hangups to deal with. Although (I can stand corrected on this), I think China has never had a tradition of tolerating sub-cultures that transcend acceptance of non-binary norms, unlike other Asian cultures such as Japan or Thailand or India.

        1. Soredemos

          Not accepting people larping as the opposite sex and invading your (literal) safe spaces is not a ‘bizarre hangup’.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      I’ve always thought Soviet visual propaganda focused heavily on manly men after Trotsky was forced out (the early stuff seemed less problematic), much more so than in the West outside of gym bros. I imagine the Chinese imagery has been similar. On top of the patriarchy that exists in so many places, it’s a recipe for trouble.

      Though it’s not terribly dissimilar to what happened here some decades ago. Now we have the crt vapors.

      1. Sawdust

        The USSR had a huge gender imbalance after WWII, but in the opposite direction for obvious reasons.

      2. KD

        Here again, Soviet muscle culture was about promoting the manly industrial worker being in charge, not some pencil neck capitalist manager. It was more about class than sex. The Soviets were way ahead of everyone else on no-fault divorce, child support, women in the labor force, they even de-criminalized homosexuality for awhile, and it was re-criminalized because they were trying to crack down on prostitution, and a lot of the patrons ended up being gay, so here more about maintaining social order than homophobia. China and the U.S.S.R. were way ahead of the West on women’s equality and many of the family reforms currently popular in the West.

        1. Soredemos

          “they even de-criminalized homosexuality for awhile, and it was re-criminalized because they were trying to crack down on prostitution, and a lot of the patrons ended up being gay, so here more about maintaining social order than homophobia”


          We reproduce here a letter that Harry Whyte (a British Communist Party member) wrote to Stalin in May 1934, in which Whyte posed the question: “can a homosexual be considered someone worthy of membership in the Communist Party?”.

          At the time, Whyte (himself homosexual) was working in Moscow at the Moscow Daily News. When he heard about the new law, he wrote a letter to Stalin asking him how he could justify it. Whyte pointed out how the new law was cancelling all the progress that had been made on such matters since the October Revolution.

          Found in the Soviet archives, on the first page of the letter is a note written by Stalin:

          “Archive. An idiot and a degenerate. J. Stalin.”

  3. praxis

    Articles like this remind me China is also full of moralizing zealots. Every one has time for a moral panic.

  4. MT_Wild

    In times of internal crisis, it helps to have a scapegoat to distract the public and maintain control. Given the odds of some sort of covid, drought, market, or other catastrophe, maybe they are just foaming the runways for a “blame the gays” campaign.

    Doesn’t preclude any of the reasons given in the write-up, it just makes it dual purpose.

  5. JMM

    I was amazed yesterday when I read that China has released a censored version of “Fight Club” in which (SPOILERS), the police end up arresting Tyler before he completes his plan. You can’t make this up:

    Reminds me a bit of the censorship during the Franco era here in Spain: everything was morals, morals, morals. I also remember watching “The Wandering Earth”, a Chinese sci-fi movie that came out a few years ago and had good reviews. There’s a scene in which they try to bribe a police officer. Being an “approved” Chinese film, I thought that wouldn’t fly. Indeed, it didn’t.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Even back in the 1980’s it was possible for Chinese film makers to (under the cover of various layers of metaphor and allegory) to criticise the establishment – some of Zhang Yimou’s wonderful films for example. But things are if anything even tighter now – the censors seem hyper aware of subtext. The result of course is deathly dull TV and movies. Although to be honest, when I saw that story about Fight Club, it looked to me like a fabricated tale, I thought even China hadn’t gone that far. I’m not quite sure if its true or not.

  6. Raymond Sim

    Corrupt authoritarians can’t accept deep-seated desires as the source of ‘abberant’ behaviors, because all the items on a menu of honest authoritarian responses to such a conclusion are necessarily so draconian.

    The cognitive dissonances must be like a series of world-circling multiply interacting tsunamis happening inside one’s head.

  7. Larry Y

    China cracked down on hip-hop culture, now cracking down on K-pop and J-pop influences.

    Wish I knew enough to compare and contrast.

    1. JustAnotherVolunteer

      It’s not just K-pop – there has been a huge rise in popularity for the film & TV genre Boys Live (BL) in both China and Korea. Many of the fans are the same young women who follow the K-pop boys bans.

      This gives you a bit of the flavor:

      I’ve watched several of the well known historical dramas and I can see why these are both popular and threatening.

  8. haywood

    Hyping homophobia is my new favorite genre of imperialist propaganda. Not long ago, the Israelis were pushing this message to undermine growing support for Palestinians among the liberal cosmopolitan west.

    This effort to “pinkwash” the imperialist project undermining China is, like all good propaganda, rooted in some basic truth. China has a very patriarchal and, in many ways, bigoted culture, reflected in CCP policies. Similar to the Palestine.

    China’s larger campaign to oppose the cultural influence of individualist western decadence creeping into their younger generations has a gross old-school gender norms bigotry associated with it. Absolutely. But similar bigotry in nations aligned with western interests goes unremarked upon by the Times, BBC, Economist, etc…

    1. B flat

      China is repressive no doubt, but I’m wary of pieces like this popping up especially now. I may look cute in my tin foil hat, but I fully expect a color revolution, or attempted one, involving LGBT+.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      > But similar bigotry in nations aligned with western interests goes unremarked upon by the Times, BBC, Economist, etc

      Exactly this … looking at Saudi Arabia et al …

  9. wsa

    There has also been a bit of a crack-down on costume dramas, expecially the wu-xia (magic and fighting!) and xianxia (Doaist immortals… doing magic and fighting!) genres. In recent years several popular TV series have drawn their scripts from well-sanitized danmei web novels. In English, danmei is usually rendered BL (“boy’s love”) on the model of the Japanese yaoi genre, which is probably the main influence on danmei. These stories feature male-male romance, but are primarily written by and for women, which I assume is part of the hostility to gender-nonconforming men, as well.

    Recent successful TV dramas adapted from danmei novels include The Untamed and Word of Honor. A huge number of similar productions were in the pipeline when new rules came down from on high last fall, and will need to radically altered to get past the censors, and probably some will be scrapped. Many of these shows are done on a huge scale, with 30 or even 60 episodes per series not unusual, so some media companies probably got huge financial hits when the new rules came out.

  10. Henry Moon Pie

    I’m getting the feeling that the driving philosophy behind recent Chinese policy moves from these cultural ones to economic ones to public health ones is:

    Whatever the Americans are doing, we want to do the opposite.

  11. Elsie

    Thank you for this article. I admire China and many aspects of their society, but this issue makes it hard for me to openly support China. It opens the door to queers and transgender people to be manipulated by Western propaganda against socialist countries. I’ve already seen this used against Syria and have lost friends who think the US military is on their side.

  12. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

    ‘Sissy men’ and ‘Nancy boys’ should be the least of the worries for the global (and national) corporate managerial class and their political servants.

    Awareness that transcends both nationalistic economic tribalism and narrow economic ideological boundaries is already the next targeted “concern”. Even though, once a certain level of awareness is acheived, it is not possible to undo and make individuals less aware.

    For example, tangping (躺平), and all those individuals who desire to opt out of the ‘carrots’ of worplace success, status, consumerism, materialism, conspicuous consumption, and the pursuit of the endless “more”. Treadmills, human mouse wheels, and the lusting after endless supplies of consumer and material “goodies” (the “cheese”); while, atempting to avoid all of the traps and endless stressors along the way is beginning to be viewed as a pointless exercise, for at least a (growing?) subset of both global and national populations.

    That nascent development will be the cause of great ongoing consternation and alarm for all those managers who embrace “standard” economic models and their explanations and expectations for human behavior. As such, ‘tangping (躺平)’ has been described as a “worrying trend”.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i think you’ve placed the nail closer to the center of the board than many others.
      it’s about boss’ fears regarding the continuance of the status quo…”keep working, prole!”/”keep buying, prole!”
      top of my mind…and what i kept thinking about…is the still ongoing dress code wars.
      a Texas court recently found for a native american kid with a topknot, and for a “gender fluid” “boy”(the latter, ironically, in the very school district i came up in and had such trouble with regarding long hair).
      court agreed that it was discriminatory fr the school to treat boys and girls differently regarding dress, hairstyle, earrings, etc.
      my large, dumbo ears were targets for earpulling from 4th grade on. this was seen as a non-issue…i should suck it up.
      my sort of accidentally growing my hair over my ears was definitely an issue…buzz cuts/high and tights were the preferred hairstyle for real men in those days(80’s)…and i fought the nonsense as best i could…using many of the same arguments used by the plaintifs in these cases.
      all that hair policing stemmed from elite fear of the Beatles….and more, what they represented to the boss class: people thinking for themselves, getting out of the rote/rut….why, before you know it, they might start questioning foreign wars, workplace conditions and the entire edifice of our empire!

      that’s likely what’s happening, here.

      and, an anecdote, because i’ve been remembering this stuff:
      sophomore year. Vice Prince Roy had me in his office, made me shave my 5-o’clock with a rusty razor, dry…and sat me down to lecture me about how “Men aren’t supposed to have long hair like women”.
      I pointed over his head, behind him, at the framed portrait of red-blond, bearded and long haired Jesus, and quoted Thomas a Kempis:” Be thou in imitation of Christ…”
      and he was floored…speechless….i watched the wheels turn and turn and the eyes go sort of glassy…
      how in the world was he supposed to counter that?

  13. Soredemos

    I find something darkly hilarious about an ostensibly communist country indulging in this reactionary culture war nonsense. Isn’t complaining that not enough men are ‘manly’ enough basically a form of idealism, as opposed to materialism?

    Also, as is always the case, the implication is that ‘feminine’ = ‘bad’. Remember: being in any way girl-like is just the worst possible thing.Misogyny is an often overused word, but when I see things like this it becomes hard not to reach for it.

    1. KD

      Isn’t complaining that not enough men are ‘manly’ enough basically a form of idealism, as opposed to materialism?

      How so? Why aren’t ‘unmanly men’ the material manifestation of Bourgeois decadence typical of social relations as they evolve in end stage Capitalism?

      1. Soredemos

        Weird to think masculinity is some default natural order. And again with the sexism. Feminine = ‘decadent’?

        1. KD

          Just as I do not see masculinity as some kind of anti-materialist position, from the standpoint of dialectical materialism, masculinity is not a default product of the natural order , it is a function of social relations. Social relations in a society in late capitalist imperialist decline would manifest in effeminate men and masculinized females as a types or symptom of imperial collapse, which has its precedents in the decline of other forms of imperial collapse historically. If you want to root it in the natural order, your going to have to move from Marx to Aristotle.

          1. Soredemos

            It most definitely does not have ‘precedents in the decline of other forms of imperial collapse historically’ in anything other than a shallow pop reading of history.

            1. KD

              Exactly, “pop historians” like Polybius, Tactitus, Ibn Khaldun, Gibbons, etc. versus “modern scholars” who have great theories about how the world works (not that they have ever served in a platoon, worked in the state department or have any other relevant experience other than suck up to their graduate advisor), our historical equivalents of Larry Summers. Looks like the Chinese are going with the “pop reading of history.”

              Maybe we should white-splain it to the CCP?

    2. Aumua

      It’s certainly historically been more of a right wing/fascist trope to be deeply concerned about masculinity and the loss of it than a communist one. And there are probably quite a few right wingers in the U.S. who would love see such training programs instituted here in our schools etc.

      So, yeah.

      1. KD

        I would be very careful about trying to typify political concerns around masculinity with historical movements of the right, and equally concerned about doing it in non-Western countries. For example, if you look at the Spanish Republicans and the Spanish Anti-Clerical activists, one of their great critiques of the Catholic clergy was that the priests were effeminate and worse dresses. There was a huge gender divide in Spain between men and women and attending religious services, and the Anti-Clerical faction was decidely “manist”. Does that make the Spanish Republicans right wing fascists, and the Nationalists the progressives?

  14. Jessica

    It may just be because of the way this showed up in English-language media that I read, but the campaign against soft men seemed to be related to the attack on “laying down/laying flat”. Some Chinese have responded to the harsh work pace and low standard of living, especially for those in their 20s and 30s, by basically giving up on the Chinese Dream and focusing more on enjoying their life. The attack on soft men seemed an extension of that broader campaign.
    I wonder if this might all resonate with a broader sense in Chinese history of how vigorous nomads who conquer China turn soft in 2-3 generations. That would be a difficult one to examine openly because that softening process was also the process of the nomads adapting to Han ways, but that could be operating in the background.
    If Xi thinks that he can get contemporary Chinese who have grown up in the modern, economically more advanced nation that his propaganda constantly brags about (and which is real) to act the same as Chinese who grew up during Japanese invasion and the accompanying mass murders and the threat of US (later Soviet) nuclear attack in one of the poorest nations in the world, he is really tilting at windmills. Is there something about higher CO2 levels or something that promotes hubris world-wide these days?

    1. KD

      I wonder if this might all resonate with a broader sense in Chinese history of how vigorous nomads who conquer China turn soft in 2-3 generations.

      That was Ibn Khaldun’s observation, and made principally in medieval North Africa, although the Chinese are smart enough to have read his work seriously.

      1. Soredemos

        Ibn Khaldun’s observations are interesting but outmoded nonsense. In reality civilizations have a much better record of beating up on ‘barbarians’ than the opposite. It’s very hard to look at something like Rome and claim its highly regimented and trained military didn’t regularly curb stomp savages.

        1. KD

          You should look at Peter Turchin’s work which is very much based on quantifying Ibn Khaldun’s insights–if you don’t already have your mind made up. If its a faith-based commitment, I would not want to disturb it.

  15. Alex Cox

    Regarding appropriate images of Chinese masculinity, there’s a fascinating picture in an article at Constortium News today: Russia’s Red Line.

    Scroll down and you’ll find a photo of Mao declaring the founding of the PRC in 1949. He is surrounded by high-ranking Communists — and what a diverse bunch they are by modern standards! Some wear brown jackets, some wear gray or black coats, some sport red sashes. Behind Mao stands a skinny man with wild white hair and a bushy white moustache.

    How different from the Davos man look of the Chinese elite (black suits, dyed black hair) today.

    1. KD

      Its really ridiculous that you have an influential thinker like Wang Huning and yet his works are not available in English translation, as if no one who doesn’t speak Mandarin cares about how the Chinese think about the world.

    2. Soredemos

      And here I was starting to warm up to China, as they’ve managed to contain covid. But now I’m suddenly reminded that it is, in fact, actually still a repressive hellhole run by authoritarian Confucist thugs. Western narcissism may indeed be unsustainable in the long term. But so is a regime of thought policing where you try and make mega popular actresses disappear. The hubris that thinks it can micromanage the lives and thoughts of a billion plus people is staggering.

  16. OveroverB

    Some of those idols are in insane shape and would easily beat 99.9% of the country in feats of strength (all while wearing guyliner). Just Google Wonho.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        By virtue of spending too much time in gyms….

        There is even a difference between big muscles and strong muscles. Users of human growth hormone (dunno if still as popular as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it was definitely A Thing in the affluent gay male and anti-aging cohorts) would get impressively muscular (basically all they had to do was look at weights to get big) without getting strong. If you saw a bulky guy lifting only light to moderate weights, it was pretty certain he was on HGH.

        I was willing to do a lot of diet and dietary supplementation experimentation, but never never would have done HGH, which I took as cancer futures.

        1. Soredemos

          The thing these days seems to be injecting synthol to make the muscles big. Until they explode anyway.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          I remember reading once that one side effect of taking too much HGH over time could be induced acromegaly, leading among other things to a facial appearance known as “Frankenstein face”.

          I remember once at a gym seeing someone with a fairly severe expression of ” Frankenstein face” and wondering if he was a HGH user. I had better sense than to ask him, of course.
          Whatever he looked like, it wasn’t ” feminine”.

  17. Tim

    Humans are predisposed to creating social balance.

    It is quite conceivable that as a generality the population realizes the imbalance of femininity relative to masculinity, and balance that by some portion of males to WILLINGLY becoming more feminine in various degrees, and for their social circle to support them in doing so.

    Prove me wrong.

  18. ape

    Should read the whole three-body problem trilogy by Cixin — this becomes a long running them over 100s of years, tied in with images of women doing the “moral” thing, while Real Men ™ do the “right” thing, but often with destructive consequences for the day to day life of the civilization.

    I’d suggest reading the series — as non-Chinese, I think Cixin is putting in some real China Zeitgeist at the top levels in his books, including very encoded discussion about the environment.

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