I have never been a fan of Guns n' Roses. They hit when I was a struggling assistant professor, too busy with my academic work to concern myself with new rock bands. And having been influenced by earlier bands, like Velvet Underground, I was certainly not shocked by GN'R's pose. So, I was unaware that they were working on a new album, which just came out. And I certainly did not expect them to become embroiled in political controversy with the PRC government.
CCP censors are now looking to block all things GN'R due to the new album, Chinese Democracy. Now, it can't be simply because of the title. After all, the CCP itself claims that it is engaged in a democratic project. Even if GN'R doesn't quite fit into the category of "democracy with Chinese characteristics," the term "Chinese democracy" alone should not banish them from the fertile markets of the mainland (which is, after all, what this is all about).
Rather, the net nannies are likely more concerned with a lyric or two. The reference to Falun Gong, perhaps; or the mention of "iron fist" to rule the nation; or this portent:
When your great wall rocks blame yourself
While their arms reach up for your help
And you're out of time.
But this hardly seems sufficient to warrant the attention of the ruling party of a great power. Even more, it doesn't seem so threatening to merit the blusterous response by a state-run newspaper in Beijing, calling the album a "venemous attack" on the nation. Come on, it's just rock and roll, not a political movement.
The banning of this music strikes me as a sign of a lack of confidence on the part of the CCP leadership. Why should they fear a group of noisy, washed-up rock and rollers? Yes, it reminds some of the horrible events of 1989. But it is virtually impossible that an album will somehow spawn a revivalist political movement, pouring into the streets calling for democracy. That's just not going to happen today in China. We might see an increase in protests and demostrations due to the effects of economic crisis. But it will not be a replay of 1989.
So what's the big deal?
The claim that the CCP is concerned about preserving "Chinese culture" from the corrosive effects of wild, hedonistic foreigners is also unbelievable. The party gave up long ago on such cultural control. Indeed, it is precisely the relinquishment of cultural surveillance which has given us things like Chinese punk rock (this cut is called "Don't Forget the Class Struggle":
And while I'm at it, let me put up one of my all time favorite rock and roll political statements, "Son of Orange County," by Frank Zappa (the youtube clip has only audio, no video). It ridicules Nixon. The main line of the chorus: "I just can't believe you are such a fool." Now, that is a venomous attack: