About four months ago, Korean entertainment suddenly found themselves with a new adversary pertaining to the international expansion of K-dramas: the top media regulator in China, known as the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT). It is because of the regulations made by SARFT, that China may no longer air K-dramas citing that such shows heavily affect Chinese people in a very negative way. Starting with My Love From Another Star, the Hallyu impact on Chinese viewers continued with Descendants of the Sun, Uncontrollably Fond, and Scarlet Heart: Ryeo. This impact resulted in Chinese people skipping work and ignoring their health (to the point some have died in certain instances).
To be fair, it is quite possible that China’s SARFT regulations were implemented as a means to punish South Korea for their cooperation with the United States for their implementation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). It is also possible they were also implemented as a means for China to push Chinese Entertainment internationally.
However, it now seems that SARFT regulations may potentially hurt China’s implementation and expansion of Chinese Entertainment, especially C-dramas, internationally. Just recently, the latest episodes of the most popular C-Drama in China, Ice Fantasy, will not air online. The reason cited is SARFT regulations.
For those who do not know what Ice Fantasy is, especially those who may just be getting into C-dramas as a means to expand from K-dramas or any other Asian dramas, it is a period fantasy series airing on Hunan Broadcasting System (Hunan TV) starring Feng Shaofeng, Victoria, Ma Tianyu, and Zhang Meng. It is the story of the conflicting struggle between the Empire of Snow and the Fire Tribe. Ka Suo (Shaofeng) is the King of the Empire of Snow and is battling his brother, Ying Kong Shi (Tianyu), who is now the prince of Fire Tribe. Throughout the history of their conflict, they learn about themselves, through devotion, friendship, and love. The latter happens for Suo through his envoy, Li Luo (Victoria), while it happens for Kong Shi through the princess of the Fire Tribe, Yan Da (Zhang Meng).
Ice Fantasy is so popular in China that it is currently the number one C-drama airing. Through its run, it was way ahead of K-dramas in the country in terms of popularity too. To understand just how popular Ice Fantasy is to the most popular K-dramas this year, it has beaten Doctors, Uncontrollably Fond, W, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, and Moonlight Drawn by Clouds by a lot, averaging 13 million viewers for the two episodes released. When Descendants of the Sun was dominating in China, it was still only in third place. God of War, Zhao Yun was the most popular C-drama at that time.
It is often believed one of the reasons why such C-dramas are so popular, not just in China, but internationally, is the fact that it airs internationally, too. This is especially true if said C-dramas are made specifically for internet airing, just like Ice Fantasy, which gives the cast and crew more freedom to do what they need to do to create an excellent product. Previously, SARFT regulations did not extend to Chinese internet television. That has recently changed. According to Forbes, SARFT was in talks with related agencies earlier this year. They want all video content to go through SARFT’s uniform platform of stricter supervision and censorship.
At this moment, C-drama fans do not know how SARFT regulations will affect C-dramas, but the international fans who may not have direct access to Chinese news learned just how these regulations may affect their viewing experience. For North and South Americans, SARFT regulations affected the C-drama Ice Fantasy. On the drama’s main page on DramaFever, a notice is posted that no new episodes would air because of SARFT regulations. It can only be assumed that SARFT is reviewing the episodes right now and once they give it the “all clear,” the episodes will air online.
The situation with SARFT regulations affecting the implementation and expansion of C-dramas is on-going and new information will be reported once it is made available. Until then, those who want to see why C-dramas are starting to make their mark internationally, they should check out Ice Fantasy on Hunan TV. For those who do not have access to Chinese channels, the C-drama can be watched for free, with ads, on both DramaFever and Viki.
[Featured Image by Hunan Broadcasting System (Hunan TV)]