New Weibo Celebrity Papi Chan: More Than Fame and Money

With now over 8 million followers on Sina Weibo, Papi Chan is the new kid on the block when it comes to China’s online celebrities. Although China’s ‘online celebrity economy’ is often criticized, Papi might bring more than fame and money alone.

‘I am Papi Chan, a woman embodied with beauty and talent’ – this is the tagline of the 2016 newly emerging internet celebrity in China, Papi Chan.

swpage Screenshot of Papi Chan’s Weibo page, that has over 8 million fans.

Apart from attracting hundreds of thousands of fans for her short videos, Papi Chan is the top news on Chinese media recently for the 1,200,000 RMB (±184,000 US$) investment she received.

‘Papi酱’ literally reads as ‘Papi Jiang’. ‘Jiang’ is commonly used as the Chinese translation of ‘chan’, the Japanese diminutive suffix for intimacy, used for close friends or cute girls – an agreed term used among lovers of Japanese pop culture.

China’s online celebrities

Papi Chan is not the first rich internet celebrity in China. A recent ChinaNet article reviewed the top ten internet celebrities in China whose online fame brings in cash, and amongst many of the Forbes 2016 world’s richest list are many young Chinese billionaires. Getting rich as a social media star is a hot way of generating cash (also see by “The Youtube Effect of WeChat & Weibo).

The ChinaNet list includes Wang Sicong (王思聪), son of Wang Jianlin, owner of China’s biggest real-estate developer group. Rich and open-speaking, the young man attracts millions of fans on Sina Weibo, and is jokingly labeled as China’s “national husband” (国民老公).

Another celebrity on the list is Sister Milk-tea (奶茶妹妹). In 2009, the then high-school girl drew attention with a photo of her in school uniform with a cup of milk tea in hand, standing in the classroom. Sister Milk-Tea implies the labels netizens attach to her: innocent, lovely and lovable. Recently, however, Sister Milk-Tea attracted a new wave of attention with her marriage to JD.com founder Liu Qiangdong. The girl is now reportedly in charge of millions of capital.

Gathering online fame as a new way to increase individual capital value draws the attention even of official media like Xinhuanet. While marveling at how immaterial fame and popularity in the intangible digital world can translate into solid cash and market value, there are also doubts about so-called internet celebrity economy (网红经济). A HuanqiuNet comment says lack of originality and sustainability are the major weak points of such an economy.

How the brand effect of internet celebrities can be materialized in practice is also of concern to the now industrialized production chain.

Papi Chan: a breath of fresh air

The money and attention Papi Chan receives, however, should not divert attention from other changes implied in her popularity. A nice looking girl herself, Papi Chan’s success relies more on her talent than on her beauty. In her videos, Papi Chan appears without make-up, plain clothes, acting various roles in exaggeration – something which she herself jokingly calls “serious schizophrenia”.

The current master student at Central Academy of Drama in Beijing pinpoints the most relevant topics in grassroot Chinese life and offers sharp sarcastic critiques. Her video bantering the social and familial pressure faced by young people during Spring Festival is an immediate success. Papi Chan’s talent in observing and reflecting on social issues draws even the attention of Chinese state media platform People.cn, that writes that talented and capable young people like Papi Chan should be respected.

papichan Papichan talks in one of her many online Weibo videos.

Behind Papi Chan’s online success is the change in Chinese netizen’s demand of online entertainment. A QDaily survey shows that people are tired of certain aesthetics in online entertainment, which often entails identical “beautiful” faces, standardized love stories, and highly photoshopped pictures of food and everyday scenes.


One of Papi’s video’s, where she makes fun of those people that everyone has amongst their WeChat friends that they’ve actually never spoken to, until they need something from you..

Papi Chan’s success lies in the content of her videos. She talks about problems that are common and closely related to everyday life of Chinese, and her somewhat blunt words express the feelings of many Chinese Internet users. In that regard, Papi might just be the breath of fresh air Chinese netizens need.

By Diandian Guo

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Author

About the author: Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialised in China's cultural memory.

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