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The reason Angela Baby changed her name…China’s New Policy

The ban of English names in the entertainment industry has a deeper connection to China’s close-doors policy.  

Angela Baby, a Hong Kong actress whose name is quite well known in Korea, has been working under her birth Chinese name Yang Ying instead of an English one since September. This is because the Chinese National Radio and Television Administration requires celebrities not to use names in foreign languages or even names that look like foreigners. Li Jiaqi (Xiao La), an influencer-turned-actress, also declared that she would use her real name instead of his stage name La Mu Yang Zi. This is because the name is similar to a Japanese name.

Angela Baby, Hong Kong Actress in China
Angela Baby, Hong Kong Actress in China
Actor Li Jiaqi, who was active under the stage name of La Mu Yang Zi
Actor Li Jiaqi, who was active under the stage name of La Mu Yang Zi

Even among Chinese who are compliant with the government’s policy, there is a response stating, “this is a little too much”. On Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, tens of thousands of users “liked” in agreement to posts such as “I can at least decide the name” and “Why do we need such regulations?”.

◆ Vigorous “anti-globalization” 

The restrictions on the foreign language use are not only happening to the entertainment industry. The English name of public places is changed to Pinyin (Chinese pronunciation symbol using the alphabets), the sound made when reading in Chinese, instead of their equivalent English expressions. For example, an airport is marked as “Jīchǎng”, not “Airport”.

Angela Baby

English, which was the center of Chinese education in the era of reform and open-doors policy, is losing its place. Last year, China banned the use of foreign textbooks in the curriculum from the first grade of elementary school to the third grade of middle school. In other words, in China, teachers and students only work with textbooks containing Chinese perspectives. Some regions, including Shanghai, have also eliminated elementary English tests.

The stated reason is the added burden of English education on students and parents. However, some consider this as a cross-section of China’s “anti-globalization”, a more prominent sentiment since President Xi Jinping took power. Considering that President Xi’s only daughter was an international student at Harvard University, the atmosphere definitely changed.

henry exo lay street dance

Diplomats also say that China is closing its doors. A diplomat in Beijing said, “If you ask researchers from government agencies for academic exchanges, most of them are rejected because of COVID-19”.

The trend of anti-globalization is similar to President Xi’s economic policy of “Common Prosperity” (Let’s Live Together). It seems to echo the policies of his predecessors in previous eras. Coincidently, the movement is increasing in speed, ahead of the Communist Party Congress, which will decide Xi’s third consecutive term.

◆ The logic of protecting the country through isolation 

The state-run Chinese History Research Institute recently published a research paper claiming the legitimacy of the “closed country” policy in the Ming and Qing periods. It is widely believed that the Ming and Qing dynasties implemented a closed-door policy to maintain power, leading to their falling behind the West. 

Nonetheless, they were able to protect its territory and culture against Western empires thanks to such policy. The paper also argued that “how and how much the border will be opened is a matter of national sovereignty”. The theoretical background of the new closed-door policy has also emerged.

Angela Baby

Since 2013, China has been operating a “magnificent firewall” that selectively blocks overseas Internet connections. Foreign content is distributed after thorough censorship. These measures are gradually making China’s cultural industry go backwards.

China has recently restricted not only the inflow of foreign cultures but also the departure of its citizens. Only reasons recognized by the authorities, such as serious disease treatments, nursing, and securing raw materials, are allowed to leave the country. Some even point out that “it [the country] has become North Korea”.

Actor Li Jiaqi
Actor Li Jiaqi

China’s economy is already unstable due to profound structural crises, aging and declining productivity. The situation sparks curiosity to where the policy will lead China.

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