As if things in China couldn’t get just a little bit more dystopian, online games have been branded as ‘online drugs’. The reason for this? The Chinese government wants more control, of course.
China is worried about large technology and video game firms that they feel are out of their control, so they have recently started to crack down more and more on them in order to strengthen their grip. This has caused many millions of investors, and players, to really start worrying. But, what is out of their control that they are reacting in such a, well, reactionary way? The declining birth rate.
Chinese officials are becoming more and more worried as China’s latest census shows that, for the first time in seven decades, this year has had the lowest amount of births. Could this perhaps be influenced by Covid19? Or possibly the One Child policy, where if you wanted to have more than one child you had to pay extra money to the government; so the majority of families in China just had a single boy, and would often times if they had a girl, would either leave her out to die out in the middle of nowhere, or even kill them and call it an accident. It couldn’t be that from 1980 to 2015 families in China were only raising men, drastically cutting down the number of women in the population. It couldn’t be a combination of that and a pandemic keeping people indoors and apart from one another.
No, it is obviously video games.
Multiple articles were printed in state-run papers like the Economic Information Daily, saying that children and teenagers had become addicted to online gaming, and it was having a negative impact on them, especially in terms of education and finding ‘romantic partners’. These articles cited games like Tencent’s massively popular Honor of Kings, saying that students were playing for up to eight hours a day and that the industry needed to be curbed.
From the online government sponsored article: “No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation,” it said, before going on to compare online games to “spiritual opium.” With this shift in public opinion and the government cracking down on them, stock prices have started to fall. One of the crackdowns also included Tencent being ordered to end exclusive music licensing deals with record labels from around the world. Maybe the Chinese government is right to do this, considering that Tencent controls around 80% of China’s music streaming rights.
Tencent has said that it would introduce measures to reduce the access children have to the game, and for how long they can play it, saying they also plan to apply this to all of their games in the future. Despite this, Tencent’s shares fell nearly 10%, and is only now slowly recovering from the losses. They are not the only ones to be suffering losses however, as the Chinese government has clamped down on many of the technology companies located there, including restrictions in foreign investments in the industry.
China is finally having one of their own ‘think of the children’ moments directed at video games, as we have seen in the Western world several times over the last few decades. Have a systemic problem caused by government policy that you can’t think of a way to change or fix? Blame video games. Call online games electronic drugs, and maybe, just maybe, people will forget about the problem for a little while.