China's bid to regulate society has led Beijing to a new target. NBC news reported that the country's top internet watchdog has said it will bar platforms from publishing lists that rank celebrities and will also regulate the lucrative industry of fan merchandise sales.
The earlier announcement is increasing on Beijing’s efforts to curtail the "chaotic" influence of the entertainment industry after a series of controversies involving celebrities.
Online celebrity fan clubs have become a widespread phenomenon, with the country's "idol economy" thriving.
But they have also been criticized for their influence over minors and for deviating from the Communist Party’s desired social order.
Competing fan clubs regularly clash on social media and trade online abuse in "fandom wars" over lists that rank popular celebrities or other points of fan contention. Some spend large amounts of money to vote for their favourite stars on idol competition programs.
Though fan culture has become common across Asia, in China the government is taking notice.
Jin Vivian Zhan, Associate Professor of Politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said, "This policy is an attempt to regulate the pop culture market rather than the culture itself."
"Many organizers of the fans' communities are not really fans but economic actors who seek business opportunities in supporting/cultivating idols and make profits out of it," she said.
In June, the internet regulator began a two-month campaign in an attempt to address the phenomenon. On Friday it said that while it had made some progress, it would now unveil new guidelines for local authorities across the country.
Platforms will no longer be able to publish lists of popular celebrity individuals and fan groups must be regulated, the watchdog said.
On the other hand, Chinese celebrities have been subjected to such treatment in the past when they have fallen foul of the authorities or public sentiment.
In 2017, China's biggest female star, Fan Bingbing, disappeared from the public eye for months before re-emerging to apologize and accept paying $129 million in overdue taxes and fines.