What China’s Culture Ministry Really Thinks Of Lady Gaga

Commentary: The “stiffs” in the government have banned songs from an array of popular singers, though the reasons for the are anything but clear. The only thing we know is that the black list is a nice round number.

Lady Gaga at the Monster Ball 2011 (Tiggerlane)
Lady Gaga at the Monster Ball 2011 (Tiggerlane)
Wang Jun

BEIJING - Lady Gaga, the goddess of oddness, super sexy Beyonce, Taiwanese singer Lin Yu Jia, hot American band Owl City, evergreen Japanese R&B singer Ken Hirai, not to mention the Backstreet Boys who haven't been seen in awhile…this would have made up a fantastic lineup for an all-star concert in China, even the "Bird's Nest" (the National Stadium that held the 2008 Olympic) would have sold out its 100,000 seats in no time. Seeing Gaga strut and Beyonce" sway, that alone would have guaranteed three months of conversation material for China's trendy set.

Unfortunately, it's the Ministry of Culture, not famous for its imagination, that came up with such a creative list – but with a very different purpose in mind .

These singers were cited for their "undeclared" songs, and music downloading websites were ordered to purge the playlist. It is already the third list of this kind issued this year by the Ministry, which announced that "the content of this Internet music has not been examined or recorded... (and) it should be cleaned up and treated according to the law." If you are Chinese, you understand right away what this means.

The consequences of non-declaration are considered serious, and can mean "interfering with the order of the online music market, and endangering national cultural security." The question is why such a serious accusation is not explained clearly? Does it mean some poison is hidden in these songs so that they will truly jeopardize the well-being of our national culture? Besides, there are lots of English songs on these three lists, so which country's security in the end are we talking about?

Are these undeclared songs pornographic, violent, or proclaiming independence in some politically incorrect way? I had a close listen to Lin Yu Jia's Good Night, Chang Huei Mei's My Dearest, both from Taiwan, and several of Lady Gaga's songs. They are so "healthy" that one can't even find a word like "kiss." Moreover, they are the epitome of purity if you compare them to those TV advertisements selling bras late in the night.

Gaga v. Bjork

In Gaga's Marry the Night, she sings "I'm gonna marry the dark, gonna make love to the stars…" Is that pornographic? Only if you have a pornographic mind! In my opinion, it is poetry. What is intriguing is that the singer Bjork, who yelled "Tibet! Tibet!" when she sang Declare Independence in her Shanghai concert, is not on this list.

The list also includes the song, I Want It That Way, by the Backstreet Boys, who the post-1990 generation doesn't even know. There are also singers like Wawa who has disappeared totally from the scene, or unheard of singers like Tata and Lin Zi Xi. In fact, the list turns out to be so much like a large publicity campaign that it intrigues the audience's rebellious psychology, and now they are all going on the net to check out these artists.

Viewing the list, I pity the poor comrade who had to work so hard to come up with a lineup that is so painfully balanced in its content. From golden oldies to 90's kitsch to the latest hits, singers of all horizons and all ages are all included.

And the most interesting and most important of all, each of the three lists contains exactly 100 songs. Since it is well demonstrated that the stiffs in the Ministry of Culture love round numbers, it was considerate of these undeclared artists to match their output with the working habits of the Ministry.

I can't help wonder how Lady Gaga would react if she ever learns how things work here. Perhaps, she'd hand over her reputation as the modern master of parody to China's Ministry of Culture?

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Tiggerlane

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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