Popular children's television shows featuring human hosts and animated elements such as "Blue's Clues" from the United States and Britain's "Teletubbies" could be included in the ban.
The government's main television and film regulator warned in a Feb. 15 notice to broadcasters and theaters that cartoons including live characters could no longer be shown. It said violators would be punished but did not say what the penalties would be.
It did not give examples of banned programs but described them as "so-called cartoons that mainly feature real people and only occasionally have computer-generated elements."
Communist authorities are eager to expand the country's animation industry and also are worried about the influence of foreign pop culture on Chinese children.
The cartoon ban is intended to "promote the development and prosperity of the cartoon industry in China," said the statement issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
The ban could also target feature films such as the 1988 feature film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," in which actor Bob Hoskins performed beside several animated characters.
The broadcast administration's statement said it planned to review programs that had previously been granted licenses to make sure none of the banned programming is aired.
Phone calls to the administration's main office on Thursday weren't answered.
Japanese and Western animated programs gained an early foothold in China but the government wants to develop its own industry.
China already limits foreign cartoons on television to 40 percent of all cartoons broadcast. It has said it might ban all foreign cartoons from prime time television once the quantity and quality of domestic productions is considered adequate.
Yet foreign cartoons dubbed into Chinese are a staple on late afternoon and weekend television.
Chinese studios have taken advantage of low labor costs to build a growing business handling the labor-intensive animation of cartoons for foreign studios.
Yet they've had little luck building up their own brands.
There are few Chinese-made cartoons aside from a handful of traditional tales such as "Journey to the West" and some government-financed titles.