The video for one of their most popular songs, “Manual of Youth,” shows the boys dancing with comic book superheroes in a classroom aglow with pastel colors as they sing: “The sun of this world can only shine on me brightly because of confidence. The center of this stage only flashes for me.”
That wholesome schoolboy image has won TFBoys love not only from Chinese fans, but also from the government. They have twice been featured on the Chinese Lunar New Year television gala staged by CCTV, the state broadcaster. The Communist Youth League’s official Weibo account often promotes the group’s activities. In April, it posted an item about Wang Yuan’s receiving a special award from United Nations officials in China for his proposals on education.
On International Children’s Day in 2015, the Communist Youth League released a video featuring TFBoys singing “We Are the Heirs of Communism,” the song of the Young Pioneers, the Communist children’s organization. In the video, they wear the Young Pioneers’ signature red scarves and sing: “Love the country and the people. Fear neither hardship nor the enemy.”
“One way the Chinese government controls the entertainment industry,” said Zhu Dake, a cultural critic at Tongji University in Shanghai, “is by honoring and financially rewarding those who, from the government’s perspective, are conveying positive values.”
In this case, “positive values” means not just traditional values such as filial piety, social harmony and hard work, but also deference to the party line.
The Chinese authorities are quick to discipline celebrities who break the rules, whether by indulging in illicit drugs, soliciting prostitutes or…