The People’s Republic of China (or, simply and more commonly, “China”) has been known to go to great legal lengths to “protect” its regime. The Great Firewall, the arrest of artist Al Weiwei, etc., all point to a government critical of criticism and fearful of any accounts of history other than the official one. At times, it seems like the Politburo of the Communist Party of China will go to any length to protect these interests, making anything and everything subject to outlaw.
Including time travel.
Well, kind of.
As of March 31, the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) advises that production not include time travel as a plot line. (If you read Chinese, you can read the statement here.) As CNN reported, “The government says … TV dramas shouldn’t have characters that travel back in time and rewrite history. They say this goes against Chinese heritage.”
Many believe that the ban is part and parcel of the Chinese crackdown on dissent, as the ban comes on the heels of a significant uptick in entertainment which uses time travel and alternate histories not only as plot devices, but also as a departure from Red Chinese rule. And more to the point, SARFT declared programming involving time travel to be bad for Chinese citizens. This, as the New York Times points out, echoes other acts: “the Chinese authorities are known for strictly censoring newspapers, film and TV programs that are deemed ‘unhealthy.’”
It’s a law only Biff Tannen could love.
Bonus fact: China’s law not only bans Back to the Future (alluded to above) but also Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as both involve time travel. The latter movie could have used a real time machine. It was filmed with an intended release in 1988, but production delays bumped the film into 1989. In one scene, per IMDb, Bill notes that he and Ted are living in San Dimas, California, in 1988. The year was dubbed — he’s actually saying 1987, but the film’s delay required the change.
From the Archives: Back to the Archive Footage: How creative editing, upside down acting, and fake facial features in the Back to the Future trilogy lead to a new rule in Hollywood.