As Japan and South Korea have shown, the best way for governments to encourage pop culture with global appeal is probably to stay out of the way. China's President Xi Jinping disagrees.

Take the announcement early last week by China's top media watchdog. Effective immediately, the government has reserved the right to send film and television actors, directors, writers and producers on all-expenses-paid, involuntary, 30-day sabbaticals to rural mining sites, border areas, and other remote locations. The purpose, according to the directive, is to help Chinese artists "form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces."

The measure is extreme — reminiscent of "sending down" students to the countryside for reeducation during China's mad Cultural Revolution. But it's by no means an isolated case.