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New Weibo Celebrity Papi Chan: More Than Fame and Money

Papi Chan is the new kid on the block when it comes to China’s online celebrities. Although this ‘online celebrity economy’ is often criticized, Papa might bring more than fame and money alone.

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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.

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 specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

Manya Koetse

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

The Online Hit of the China-US Meeting in Alaska: Interpreter Zhang Jing

While the China-US meeting is all the talk, it is interpreter Zhang Jing who has hit the limelight.

Manya Koetse

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It probably was not easy to translate the tough talks at the high-level meeting between the U.S. and China in Anchorage. Chinese female translator Zhang Jing became an online hit in China for remaining unflustered, graceful, and accurate.

Over the past days, the U.S.-China strategic talks in Anchorage have been a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media.

The first major U.S.-China meeting of the Biden administration ended on Friday, March 19. Despite the tense start of the meeting and some describing the talks as a “diplomatic clash,” China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) called the meeting “frank, constructive and helpful,” New York Times reports.

While international media focused on the meeting and what their outcome means for Sino-American relations and the foreign strategies of China and the U.S., many Weibo users focused on interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) who joined the meeting.

One video of the first session of the diplomatic talks shows how Yang Jiechi starts his response to the American side at 8.30 minutes, going on for over 15 minutes until the 24.36-minute mark. Next to him, interpreter Zhang Jing is fiercely taking notes.

When Yang is finished speaking, he glances to foreign minister Wang Yi on his right to let him speak, after which Zhang says, “Shall I first translate?”

While the U.S. side was awaiting the translation, Yang then says: “Ok, you translate,” adding in English: “It’s a test for the interpreter,” after which the American side says “We’re gonna give the translator a raise!”

Zhang then goes ahead and calmly translates Yang’s entire 15-minute speech directed at American secretary Blinken and national security advisor Sullivan.

To give a speedy translation of such a lengthy off-the-record speech is seen as a sign of Zhang’s utmost professionalism as an interpreter, which many on Weibo praise. “She’s my idol,” multiple people write.

On Sunday, the hashtag “China-U.S. Talks Female Interpreter Zhang Jing” (#中美对话女翻译官张京#) had reached 200 million views.

It’s not the first time for Zhang to become an online hit. She was previously also called “the most beautiful interpreter” of the National Congress in 2013.

Zhang Jing is a graduate of the China Foreign Affairs University (外交学院) and has been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2007.

Being an interpreter is generally regarded an exciting and attractive job by many Chinese netizens, as the career involves much traveling and international contacts. But the ability to master another language than Chinese is also often admired.

In 2016, a TV drama titled The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) became a major hit, featuring Chinese actress Yang Mi who plays a Chinese-French interpreter on her way to start her professional career.

“Translators are usually the ‘heroes behind the scenes’,” one commenter writes, pointing out how rare it is for an interpreter to hit the limelight like this.

“There are still people saying it’s not important to learn English,” another Weibo user writes: “But if that were true, how could we educate brilliant interpreters like Zhang Jing? How else could we quarrel with Americans at the conference table?!”

Many who write about Zhang on Weibo say that she is an example or a role model to them: “I hope that my spoken English one day would be as excellent as hers. This motivates me to try even harder.”

By Manya Koetse

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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