First they came for the Christians. And I did nothing, for I am not a Christian.
You won't believe who they came for next.
In light of the new online porn-cleaning campaign, many Chinese book-sharing or book-hosting websites took off their slash collections, including jjwxc.net, the biggest and most popular self-publishing website in China. Websites dedicated to slash content, such as dmxsw.com, were shut down entirely. Twenty or so writers of slash fictions were reportedly taken away by police, all of whom were female.
Yes, female. The majority of readers, as well as writers, of slash in China are straight young girls who identify themselves as “rotten women (腐女).” A popular saying among netizens goes “The one who can win over rotten women will rule the world of online publishing” – that’s how big and important the group is.
So what do 'rotten women' have in common with Chinese Christians? It's not as if Wenzhou's Jesus folk are taking to writing mucky stories about celebrities in their spare time.
It's important to note here that the churches targeted in this campaign for the most part belonged to the official Protestant three selfer church, rather than the illegal house churches. There's obviously no official group for slash fiction writers. More likely they were able to get by - and indeed prosper – because they never got on to the fairly rigid authoritarian radar grid and so were immune to previous anti-porn campaigns. Imagine being an understrapper at the Relevant Organ thinking of explaining to your boss about slash fiction. No. Let it go by. Just do the usual crackdown. Enough so the boss can tell his boss that we're on the job.
Likewise, the authorities in Wenzhou never seemed particularly bothered by the unusually prominent edifices of local Protestants. They're a big part of the local tax base, they bring in a lot of money, so we'll just refuse them permits, they'll just build illegally and everybody's happy.
What I'm getting at here is that for different reasons both the rotten women and the three selfers were tolerated heterodox tendencies in Chinese society. This is what appears to be changing under Xi.
I don't know how much of this comes from the centre. Ultimately, of course, a system is what it does, and in the general crackdown culture the new regime has instituted, authoritarian mission creep is a sufficient explanation for what is happening. Crackdowns were bound to extend from the corrupt and dissident to the simply unorthodox. Now is the time to finally tell the boss about slash fiction. Now there is more to gain from knocking down churches than from tolerating their existence.
If this does have an origin in central government policy I suspect it may be in the campaign against 'formalism' ie against going through the motions. If you're an official, you have to do more than simply not turn a blind eye. You have to actively seek new directions in which to establish who is in charge.
So who's next? There's obviously no visible connection between them and the other two groups, but another prominent, heterodox and fairly successful group in Chinese society is the unofficial trade union movement...