Other shows executed similar blurring feats in postproduction. Contestants on another reality show for entertainers, Sisters Who Make Waves, practiced cartwheels in sneakers blitzed into indiscernible blurs. So many shoes were erased in the stand-up comedy series, Roast that when a group gathered on a podium, the space between the floor and their long hems appeared to melt into a fog.
A representative for Tencent Video, which hosts Roast, declined to comment on why some brands were censored. The streaming platforms iQiyi and Mango TV, which respectively host Youth With You 3 and Sisters Who Make Waves, did not respond to requests for comment. Adidas did not respond to emailed questions.
The onscreen blur or crop is hardly novel in China. The earlobes of male pop stars have been airbrushed to hide earrings deemed too effeminate. A period drama featuring décolletage distinctive to the Tang Dynasty was pulled off the air in 2015, only to be replaced with a version that cropped out much of the costumes and awkwardly zoomed in on the talking heads of the performers. Soccer players have been ordered to cover arm tattoos with long sleeves.
The onscreen censorship illustrates the difficult line that the online video platforms, which are regulated by the National Radio and Television Administration, need to tread.
The blurring is likely the platforms self-censorship in order to be safe than sorry, said Haifeng Huang, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Merced and a scholar of authoritarianism and public opinion in China.
But it nevertheless implies the power of the state and the nationalistic segment of the society, which is also likely the message that the audience gets: These big platforms have to censor themselves even without being explicitly told so.
The blurring episodes also show how the platforms seem to be willing to sacrifice the quality of the viewing experience to avoid political fallout, even when they become the butt of audience jokes.

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