Legal Opinion: Why did China ban Battlefield 4?

Battlefield 4 China Flag

By on January 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I have many bullets to spare. At the risk of sounding insensitive, that is my gamer’s impression of the Chinese military, care of Electronic Arts. Which I guess is why China’s Ministry of Culture recently banned Battlefield 4 –clueless westerners might think the game is actually real. But here’s the specific reason given by China:

Battlefield 4 is an illegal video game, with content that endangers national security. It is an aggressive attack on our culture.

Now, the idea that a video game could endanger national security is laughable. Clearly, this statement needs fleshing out.

It’s different from Generals

Battlefield 4′s ban is not unprecedented. Ten years ago, Command and Conquer: Generals was banned, too. However, Generals almost seemed to be goading China, and I’m not just talking about the voice acting. China was the only faction to use nuclear weapons, when the real China has a minimalist nuclear stance. Not something you want misrepresented. Generals also gave Tiananmen Square a mention—a sure way to get anything banned in China.

Battlefield 4 made none of these faux pas. The Chinese media criticised the game as sending up China as the new-Russia on America’s video game punching bag. But really, China is far more relevant than Russia. China now has the second-biggest military funding in the world, and may see it bypass America’s military this century.

You have to question the ban on purely cultural grounds, since most Chinese media criticism was directed at the single player game. And really, who plays Battlefield 4 for the single player game? It’s like reading GON for the articles.* China was able to have skeletons replaced by sandbags in World of Warcraft, after all, so I’m sure they could have pruned the single player campaign from Battlefield 4.

We have big plans

Any Chinese ban is noteworthy because China’s PC game industry is worth $6 billion, making it the largest in the world. A banned game potentially misses a huge market, one which is opening up.

Battlefield 4′s banning comes in hand with China’s move to set up an experimental Free Trade Zone in Shanghai. Though not without its critics, what it basically means is that foreign business will have an easier time setting up in Shanghai without as much government oversight as before.

A decade-long ban on console games has also recently been lifted (who cares), and China is starting to make tentative steps towards curbing video game piracy. Foreign video game production and retail will be permitted for one of the first times in China’s history, and may actually have a chance of success.

However, games will still be screened on grounds of culture. Games that won’t be permitted are those that, among other things, threaten state security, disturb the social order, or damage China’s glory (yes, that’s a real reason for a ban). The State still wants control over what comes in.

Battlefield 4′s ban, in part then, can be seen as a way to assert their control at a time when they’re cautiously opening up slightly, and show the world they haven’t totally abandoned communism—a way to set the limits on free market shenanigans. However, I don’t think that’s the whole picture.

Bombing bays clear

Officially, China pursues a policy of peaceful development. Despite that its military spending continues to get bigger by 10% each year, China stresses that it is a peaceful country. But that hasn’t stopped people worrying.

Of particular worry is whether its conflict with Japan over the China Sea islands. They’re just a few rocks in the middle of the ocean, really. But both countries seem to have attached a strong symbolic value to these rocks. With both Japan and China sporting more nationalistic rhetoric as of late, many generally sane political commentators have been waxing on whether this could lead to World War 3.

If war does break out, it’s likely the Americans will become involved. Ever since World War 2, America has made enforcing the Asian theatre their “thing”, and to back down now would be a free pass for anyone who wants to challenge them—just look at what happened with Iraq. They’ve already started shifting military power away from the Middle East to the Pacific, with their Guam base receiving the lion’s share of defence funding, and making symbolic flybys over the aforementioned rocks.

China is intensely aware of this and doesn’t particularly want a war—they have booming trade with Japan, America, Australia, and just about everyone else who would be dragged in. America still possesses an overwhelming military advantage in Asia, and the renewed US buildup has been met with disapproving frowns.

These things are sensitive, and that means any game that shows China in combat with America is likely to be seen as an “aggressive attack on our culture”.

Battlefield 4 both described a scenario China wants to avoid and threatened China’s image of a peaceful giant when much of the western world is worried if they’re about to be dragged into war.

* I am, of course, talking about our new video focus this year. (Good save. –Ed)

42 comments (Leave your own)

‘China will grow larger!’

 

Bastards take our jobs yet we can’t take revenge inflicting horrible single player campaign… shit is no fair

 

‘Let loose the juice!’

 

It’s like reading GON for the articles.

I didn’t see this line because I don’t read GON for the articles. <_<

 

‘THIS IS THE OVERLORD TANK’

 

“For China!”

 

China was upset that the expansion, mostly focused on them, had no Leveloution so they where like, What no leveloution for China, FU ea and dice, BAN!

 

Patrick, have you got a source for the claim China’s military spending will “bypass America’s military in 15 years” ?

At the moment the US out spends China at a rate of about $4 to $1. to close that gap in 15 years would be unimaginable. Bypass America’s military in 15 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

Your statement is a bit unclear as you say china has the second biggest army (this is inaccurate, China ranks number 5 and the US number 9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_military_and_paramilitary_personnel , then you talk about spending, then say it will surpass America’s in 15 years, are you talking about in terms of money spent or troop numbers?

 

AK-47’s for everybody!

Oh wait…wrong side :/

An interesting article, and a good opportunity to read up on China’s history. For hundreds of years, China has been subject to invasions and interference from various countries, like the U.S. and Britain during the 19th century, to Japan in the 20th century. There is I imagine a general distrust from the Chinese people towards foreign interference and commentary. And the Government’s reaction on in the past has been to close themselves off to the wider world. In recent times, China and it’s people has only really engaged with the wider community for the past 15-20 years.

Also take into account that you’ve got the dilemma of trying to unify the world’s largest population comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups and is spread across a large landmass. China has historically been beset by civil wars based on ethnic and political grounds, which are often started through uprisings amongst the population. So the Chinese Government has to be seen as being strong-willed and capable by it’s people or else they will (and have) revolt.

Tldr; The Chinese Government is EXTREMELY sensitive to anything which damages the Chinese image of unity, especially if it comes from outside sources. I will ashamedly say I’ve finished the BF4 SP campaign and although there are “good” Chinese forces, a key plot of the game is one of dissension and disunity amongst the Chinese Government, military and population. And that is a big no-no to the Chinese. I’m not saying they’re right, but I hope this gives some understanding as to why this is so.

 

This article is sensational… ist.

China now has the second-biggest army in the world, and increased military spending will see it bypass America’s military in 15 years.

You mean the second most funded. China already has the “biggest army” by a huge margin.

However, games will still be screened on grounds of culture. Games that won’t be permitted are those that, among other things, threaten state security, disturb the social order, or damage China’s glory (yes, that’s a real reason for a ban). The State still wants control over what comes in.”

Like… um err… most other countries including Australia.

Officially, China pursues a policy of peaceful development. Despite that its military spending continues to get bigger by 10% each year, China stresses that it is a peaceful country. But that hasn’t stopped people worrying.

That would be worrying, except that it’s completely inline with China’s GDP which has grown by roughly 10 % pa for the last 30 odd years.

Of particular worry is whether its conflict with Japan over the China Sea islands. They’re just a few rocks in the middle of the ocean, really.

A few rocks surrounded by oil and gas reserves located in strategically important shipping lanes for China.

With both Japan and China sporting more nationalistic rhetoric as of late, many generally sane political commentators have been waxing on whether this could lead to World War 3.

O rly?

 

schrapple:
Patrick, have you got a source for the claim China’s military spending will “bypass America’s military in 15 years” ?

His crystal ball.

 

Most of their country is uninhabitable couple that with the rising pollution and their need for expansion it is only a matter of time before something happens. I would actually be surprised if there isn’t a plan already in the works by China.

The dragon has slept for too long.

Edit: There was a documentary a while ago (can’t remember the name) that actually focused on China’s need for expansion and how they would go about it. They have bought so many deep water ports around south america, I’ll see if I can dig up the docu.

 

This article could be shortened quite a lot –

Q. Why did China ban Battlefield 4?

A. Because China is a nasty totalitarian dictatorship where the government does whatever the hell it likes.

 

schrapple,

You also have to take into account that one million USD spend in the USA does nto equal one million spent in the People’s Republic of China…

 

schrapple,

You’re sorting by the wrong thing, ‘reserve’ does not imply much, for instance Korea afaik has a compulsory military service, hence the 8 million in ‘reserve’.

 

“Of particular worry is whether its conflict with Japan over the China Sea islands. They’re just a few rocks in the middle of the ocean, really. But both countries seem to have attached a strong symbolic value to these rocks. With both Japan and China sporting more nationalistic rhetoric as of late, many generally sane political commentators have been waxing on whether this could lead to World War 3.”

Interesting article in many respects.

However you seem to have missed the strategically significant undersea gas/oil reserves as well as the rich fishing grounds which surround the Daioyu/Senkaku islands (the chain that China contests with Taiwan/Japan), as well as the Paracel and Spratly islands (contested by China/Vietnam/Philippines).

Symbolic value is all well and good, and if you put symbolic value and a dollar together it could buy you a dollar’s worth of whatever you like. But show me nationalistic rhetoric and I’ll guarantee you that behind it lurks some kind of material acquisition motive.

Recent example:
Hate our freedom = Currently charging too much for crude oil

That kind of thing…

 
Patrick Vuleta

jme:
This article is sensational… ist.

You mean the second most funded. China already has the “biggest army” by a huge margin.

Like… um err… most other countries including Australia.

That would be worrying, except that it’s completely inline with China’s GDP which has grown by roughly 10 % pa for the last 30 odd years.

A few rocks surrounded by oil and gas reserves located in strategically important shipping lanes for China.

O rly?

Hi!

Well… does military spending to increase in line with GDP? There are many countries where it doesn’t.

As for the source for the rate increase, that was part of the research and there are some people saying that if China’s economy keeps growing. However I have edited the article to say it “may”. You’re right on that part, and I want my articles to be accurate.

As for the few rocks comment… well I’m doubtful whether it can just be reduced to material wealth. They have been under Japanese control for the entire 20th century, and it was only after Japan bought the islands from a private seller that China got particularly angry. That, and any strategic importance doesn’t quite seem to gel with the stakes here.

 

I reckon they just got sick of CTDs

 

korten:
schrapple,

You’re sorting by the wrong thing, ‘reserve’ does not imply much, for instance Korea afaik has a compulsory military service, hence the 8 million in ‘reserve’.

There was no mistake. Active, reserve and paramilitary are meaningless when comparing countries as each country have their own interpretation of what means what. In the same way that dollars spent and size of a standing army has no relevance in calculating a country’s military strength (outside of fear mongering that is).

 
Nasty Wet Smear

We used to play Generals at a cyber café in the city. I would play China… Not because I knew how to play them, or I thought they were a good faction, but because I could crash the game at any time by building a screen full of infantry and attempting to move them all at once.

The computers there did NOT like that!

 
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