Why Is Beijing Afraid of Shen Yun?

Eva Fu

Many who watch a performance by the New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts have a similar reaction—they describe it as inspiring, uplifting, and in some cases life-changing.

Theatergoers have included politicians and celebrities from around the world.

So why is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so afraid of a classical Chinese dance and music performance that showcases traditional Chinese culture?

Shen Yun’s slogan “China Before Communism” says it all.

The CCP views Shen Yun “as very dangerous” to its own ideology because of the performing arts company’s efforts to revive and depict traditional Chinese culture, Trevor Loudon, an expert on communist infiltration, told The Epoch Times.

Interference in South Korea

Its latest target is South Korea, where Shen Yun Performing Arts has been unable to book a theater in the capital, Seoul.

Internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times reveal how the Chinese embassy in Seoul has threatened theaters with financial and diplomatic consequences if they host the show.

When reached by phone by The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD earlier this week, an official at the Chinese embassy went as far as acknowledging the interference campaign.

“We tell them it’s not legal to let Shen Yun Performing Arts … apply [for] permission in a Korea theater to have their performances,” the communist official said.

That the CCP has so far successfully prevented an American performing arts company from performing in a democratic country—and a close ally of the United States—reveals bigger geopolitical forces at play.

South Korea has for years been caught between the United States, its biggest security ally, and China, its top trade partner.

After years of Beijing-friendly leaders, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol came to power in 2022 on a platform that promised to align his country closer with the United States and away from Beijing.

Mr. Yoon famously sang the American classic “American Pie” when meeting with President Joe Biden at a state dinner at the White House in April this year and praised what he described as “an alliance of values.”

The idea of cultural exchange between the United States and South Korea has been considered a key focus between the two nations.

Mr. Yoon, who will meet with President Biden later this month in San Francisco, is facing enormous pressure from the CCP against his efforts to align his country with the United States.

Mr. Yoon, for example, has been far more reserved than his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in opposing the CCP during a trilateral meeting at Camp David earlier this year.

In response to the meeting, China’s ambassador in South Korea Xing Haiming had a message for Mr. Yoon, saying he was making the “wrong bet” and that the United States should stop its “decoupling from China.”

The ambassador’s statements invoked a rare rebuke from Mr. Yoon himself, who was reported saying at a cabinet meeting that, “Looking at Ambassador Xing’s attitude, it’s doubtful if he has an attitude of mutual respect or promotion of friendship as a diplomat.”


South Korea is not the first country where the CCP has used phone calls, letters, personal visits, and other methods to disrupt Shen Yun’s performances. An Epoch Times investigation previously found the regime even resorted to life-threatening forms of sabotage, such as slashing the tires of the company’s tour buses in such a way they would explode once driven.

But while the CCP has failed to stop Shen Yun from performing in most countries around the world, including prestigious theaters such as New York’s Lincoln Center and Paris’s Palais des Congrès, it has succeeded so far in South Korea.

Its actions, however, are drawing increased international condemnation.

Tara O, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute focusing on South Korea, called the CCP’s interference campaign “cultural warfare.”

The Chinese regime “wants to promote itself as the legitimate authority over the entirety of China,” she said. But Shen Yun, by showcasing “pre-CCP culture,” shows that it’s possible to “run China by some other authority other than the CCP.”

Also in Congress, there is growing questioning of and opposition to the CCP’s actions in South Korea.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said earlier this week that “we don’t appreciate that an American dance company is not being allowed to perform there because of pressure from communist China.”

She hopes that Korean officials will “rectify the situation” and get Shen Yun into theaters.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) described the CCP’s interference with Shen Yu

Vietnamese American Conservative Alliance (VACA)


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