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China moves to ban funky clothes

China street style

China street style

It’s been decades since China has felt the need to roll out new security laws, but in a post-COVID moment of sluggish economic growth, Chinese authorities are placing new emphasis on rules meant to keep people from rocking the boat. One proposed law in particular has drawn a big reaction across Chinese social media. Apparently, clothes really can hurt a nation’s feelings.

The draft of this law makes it a crime to wear, or force others to wear, clothing that “undermines the spirit or hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation.” Wearing clothes that authorities consider insufficiently Chinese could land you a 15 day jail sentence and a fine of the yuan equivalent of $680.

The first problem here is that there is no published description of what the new dress code demands, leaving citizens to guess what kind of tee-shirt, dress, or other clothing item might set off the alarm. Nor is it clear how police will decide whether the nation’s feelings have been hurt – and whether a young girl’s Korean boy band tee-shirt or a boy’s purple suit is the main culprit.

The larger problem is that the law signals yet again that the state neither knows nor cares what young people, those most likely to wear unconventional clothing, want. In a country where consumers have seen the value of the money in their pockets plunge to 16-year lows against the dollar, and where youth unemployment has surged to levels that persuaded authorities to stop publishing stats on the subject, new clothing restrictions that appear targeted at young people have set off waves of scorn online.


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