Can Chinese Censorship Ban Time Travel?

A few months ago, Chinese censorship extended to the new banning of a theoretical concept, that of time travel. According to the ban, no mention or regard of time travel is hereafter allowed to be used in any Chinese media, including plays, movies, or television shows. According to media authorities, this new Chinese censorship has been enacted because it is “disrespectful to history” even for fictional characters to alter the past. In other words, Chinese history should in no way be changed for any reason, even for purposes of entertainment.

Obviously, this type of ban has lead to questions. Among this inquiries is the obvious: what caused Chinese censorship to become involved in something so specific and seemingly benign as time travel? According to one testimony told to The Hollywood Reporter, some depictions of time travel have been used in order to make some sort of political statement relevant to China’s current state. You can probably guess that these political statements were not very flattering to current Chinese protocol. Following this idea, it seems time travel Chinese censorship may be not so much concerned with a lack of honor for the past, but the possible implications such forms of media may have for China’s present.

Despite these possible political statements, it seems not many Chinese shows or movies are centered around or feature time travel. Moreover, it has been reported that this new Chinese censorship, while granting authorities absolute power to pull any offensive media which may contradict the ban from the public immediately, is more of a “guideline” while at the same time claiming to not favor any particular media expression or production.

Therefore, theoretically, if a show or movie featured time travel which honored the Chinese government or was completely pure of any political statements indicating otherwise, Chinese censorship may not dictate the removal of such media. Conversely, if that same show or movie did contain any material which spoke poorly of the present Chinese government, such media could be instantly banned in accordance with established Chinese censorship. Of course, no one is suggesting this is the purpose of the new Chinese censorship. Although, such an ambiguous bill does leave room for such an occurrence, should the Chinese government feel so inclined.

The reaction to the new Chinese censorship has yet to fully come into effect, if it will at all. The ban on time travel has only been in effect for a relatively short amount of time. However, Chinese writers working time travel concepts into their scripts may be risky business. It’s likely such Chinese censorship may dissuade media workers from risking incorporating time travel all together, for fear that their work may be banned. This means that a Chinese rendition of “Back to the Future” is even less likely than it was when the film first came out.


Landreth, Jonathan. “China Bans Time Travel Films and Shows, Citing Disrespect of History – The Hollywood Reporter.” The Latest Entertainment & Hollywood News – The Hollywood Reporter. 2011. Web. 18 May 2011.