'Very crazy': Controversy over China's latest 'nanny state' move

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The Chinese Communist Party continues to tighten its grip on those it governs as the party seeks to shape the country in its likeness.

The latest move takes aim at what the Chinese government has previously described as "spiritual opium".

That is, of course, video games. 

The country has forbidden under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, and only during specific state-approved times.

President Xi Jinping has been cracking down on certain sections of society. Source: Getty
President Xi Jinping has been cracking down on certain sections of society. Source: Getty

The stringent social intervention, the government says, was needed to pull the plug on a growing video game addiction.

It is the latest in a number of crackdowns on tech companies, as well as the education sector, which has seen global investors shaken

"This is huge and very very crazy," remarked Alex Turnbull, a Singapore-based investor and son of former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, following the latest news.

The new decree, published on Monday, is part of a major shift by Beijing to strengthen control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including tech, education and property, after years of runaway growth.

The Chinese government had grown increasingly vocal about gaming addiction. Source: Getty
The Chinese government had grown increasingly vocal about gaming addiction. Source: Getty

The restrictions, which apply to any devices including phones, are a body blow to a global gaming industry that caters to tens of millions of young players in the world's most lucrative market.

They limit under-18s to playing for one hour a day – 8pm to 9pm – on only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to the Xinhua state news agency. They can also play for an hour, at the same time, on public holidays.

"Teenagers are the future of our motherland," Xinhua quoted an unnamed NPPA spokesperson as saying.

"Protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people's vital interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation."

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'Utterly speechless': Questions remain over latest crackdown 

Previously, China had limited the length of time under-18s could play video games to 1.5 hours on any day and three hours on holidays under 2019 rules.

The new rules swiftly became one of the most discussed topics on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter. Some users expressed support for the measures while others said they were surprised at how drastic the rules were.

"This is so fierce that I'm utterly speechless," said one comment that received over 700 likes.

Others expressed doubt that the restrictions could be enforced. "They will just use their parents' logins, how can they control it?" asked one.

As the Financial Times noted, the increasing "nanny state" measures from the Chinese government are "reversing elements of the compact it has established with urban residents over the past four decades to steadily reduce its interference in their private lives."

In June 2018, the World Health Organisation opted to recognise gaming addiction as an official disease.

with Reuters

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