‘Friends’ No More: China Censors Lady Gaga, BTS, Justin Bieber From Reunion Episode

May 30, 2021 Updated: June 2, 2021


“In China, the reunion episode of ‘Friends’ was all about grudges,” writes the brilliant Paul Mozur in the New York Times. “The problem wasn’t ‘Friends,’ but the friends of ‘Friends.’”

Three Chinese video platforms streamed the reunion episode of “Friends” on May 27. But the latest episode of the 1990s American sitcom, beloved by many Chinese who learned English watching it, was censored. Appearances by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and BTS, a K-pop group, had been cut. These superstars committed the crime of thinking, and saying, the wrong thing, and are now erased from Chinese telecom. What were their crimes?

In 2016, Lady Gaga met the Dalai Lama, an exiled Tibetan leader renowned for his spirituality. Since then, her fandom has been gagged in China.

In 2014, Justin Bieber posted a snap from Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. It honors Japan’s war dead from World War II. China persists in using the memory of World War II, as it uses the Opium Wars of Britain, to propagandize against these now democratic and reformed countries. They aren’t what they used to be, yet the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will not let it go.

Most amazing was the censorship of South Korea’s BTS, which when remembering the difficulties of the Korean War, failed to acknowledge China’s “sacrifice,” even though the CCP was one of the aggressors, along with North Korea, in that horrific violence against the South.

Perhaps to avoid such expensive awkwardness, the star of “Fast and Furious 9,” or “F9” for short, John Cena, kowtowed to Beijing this week by apologizing profusely and in Mandarin for referring to Taiwan as a country. Mr. Cena posted the video apology on Weibo, a Chinese social network similar to Twitter, that boasts 222 million active users. In China, “F9” grossed $135 million last weekend. Eighty-three percent of its international revenues were in China. This weekend’s receipts were now at risk.

“Now I have to say one thing which is very, very, very important: I love and respect China and Chinese people,” Cena gushed in the video. “I’m very sorry for my mistakes. Sorry. Sorry. I’m really sorry. You have to understand that I love and respect China and Chinese people.”

I was embarrassed for him. It’s not quite the American tough-guy image with which he wrestled fame from the jaws of defeat. His crime? Saying to a Taiwan broadcaster that “Taiwan is the first country that can watch” his new film. Cringe.

He ought now to apologize to Taiwan, for apologizing about calling it a country. It is a country.

Thousands of Weibo users rejected Cena’s apology. One posted, “Please say ‘Taiwan is part of China’ in Chinese. Otherwise, we will not accept your apology.” It was liked thousands of times.

In that moment, Cena symbolized a humbled America. Captain America kowtowing to Beijing for crumbs, over issues like Tibet, Hong Kong, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and Xinjiang (East Turkistan) that we ought to stand up for on principle.

Imagine a world without Lady Gaga, BTS, and Justin Bieber. Imagine a world in which our professional wrestlers salute the Chinese Communist flag (which is different than the Chinese flag) before jumping in the ring. No more red-white-and-blue underpants.

Imagine telling your kids and their friends they can’t listen to what they want, see what they want, and read what they want. This is the world that the Chinese Communist Party is offering. This is the China Dream.

Even if you dislike all these superstars, and never appreciated those flag pants, you should appreciate, or re-appreciate, the First Amendment that protects them all for those who do like them. Remember it from high school?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment is illegal in China. “Friends,” Americans, get your mojo back before it’s illegal in America.

Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Follow Anders on Twitter: @anderscorr