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China Celebs

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 and Covid19

King of Workout Livestream: Liu Genghong Has Become an Online Hit During Shanghai Lockdown

Liu Genghong (Will Liu) is leading his best lockdown life.

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With their exercise livestreams, Liu and his wife are bringing some positive vibes to Shanghai and the rest of China in Covid times, getting thousands of social media users to jump along with them.

On Friday, April 22, the hashtag “Why Has Liu Genghong Become An Online Hit” (#为什么刘畊宏突然爆火#) was top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Liu Genghong (刘畊宏, 1972), who is also known as Will Liu, is a Taiwanese singer and actor who is known for playing in dramas (Pandamen 熊貓人), films (True Legend 苏乞儿), and releasing various music albums (Rainbow Heaven 彩虹天堂). He is a devout Christian.

Besides all of his work in the entertainment business, Liu is also a fitness expert. In 2013, Liu participated in the CCTV2 weight loss programme Super Diet King (超级减肥王, aka The Biggest Loser) as a motivational coach, and later also became a fitness instructor for the Jiangsu TV show Changing My Life (减出我人生), in which he also helped overweight people to become fit. After that, more fitness programs followed, including the 2017 Challenge the Limit (全能极限王) show.

During the Covid outbreak in Shanghai, the 50-year-old Liu Genghong has unexpectedly become an online hit for livestreaming fitness routines from his home. Together with his wife Vivi Wang, he streams exercise and dance videos five days of the week via the Xiaohongshu app and Douyin.

In his livestreams, Liu and his wife appear energetic, friendly, happy and super fit. They exercise and dance to up-beat songs while explaining and showing their moves, often encouraging those participating from their own living rooms (“Yeah, very good, you’re doing well!”). Some of their livestreams attract up to 400,000 viewers tuning in at the same time.

The couple, both in lockdown at their Shanghai home, try to motivate other Shanghai residents and social media users to stay fit. Sometimes, Liu’s 66-year-old mother in law also exercises with them, along with the children.

“I’ve been exercising watching Liu and his wife for half an hour, they’re so energetic and familiar, they’ve already become my only family in Shanghai,” one Weibo user says.

“I never expected Liu Genghong to be a ‘winner’ during this Covid epidemic in Shanghai,” another person writes.

Along with Liu’s online success, there’s also a renewed interest in the Jay Chou song Herbalist’s Manual (本草纲目), which is used as a workout tune, combined with a specific dance routine. Liu is also a good friend and fitness pal to Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

This week, various Chinese news outlets such as Fengmian News and The Paper have reported on Liu’s sudden lockdown success. Livestreaming workout classes in general have become more popular in China since the start of Covid-19, but there reportedly has been no channel as popular as that of Liu Genghong.

The channel’s success is partly because of Liu’s fame and contagious enthusiasm, but it is also because of Vivi Wang, whose comical expressions during the workouts have also become an online hit.

While many netizens are sharing their own videos of exercizing to Liu’s videos, there are also some who warn others not to strain themselves too quickly.

“I’ve been inside for over 40 days with no exercise” one person writes: “I did one of the workouts yesterday and my heart nearly exploded.” “I feel fine just watching,” others say: “I just can’t keep up.”

Watch one of Liu’s routines via Youtube here, or here, or here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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China Celebs

Weibo Shuts Down Rumors of Tong Liya’s Alleged Marriage to CMG President Shen Haixiong

The censorship surrounding the Tong Liya story almost drew more attention than the actual rumors themselves.

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The famous actress and dancer Tong Liya (佟丽娅, 1983) has had an eventful year. After hosting the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2020, she performed at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in February of 2021 and in May she announced that after seven years of marriage, she finalized her divorce with actor and director Chen Sicheng (陈思诚).

Tong Liya is of Xibe ethnicity and was born in Xinjiang. The former beauty pageant and award-winning actress is known for her roles in many films and TV series, such as those in The Queens and Beijing Love Story. She also starred in the 2021 Chinese historical film 1921, which focuses on the founding of the Communist Party of China.

This month, online rumors about Tong flooded the internet, alleging that she was recently remarried to Shen Haixiong (慎海雄, 1967), the deputy minister of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department and the President of the CMG (China Media Group), which includes CCTV, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

Some of the rumors included those claiming the actress was previously Shen’s mistress, or netizens connecting Tong Liya’s relations with such an influential and powerful person to her role at the previous CCTV Spring Gala Festival.

But these rumors did not stay online for long, and the quick censorship itself became somewhat of a spectacle. As reported by China Digital Times, the topic ‘Tong Liya’s Remarriage’ (‘佟丽娅再婚’) was completely taken offline.

Following the rumors and censorship, it first was announced that Tong reported the online rumors about her to the police, with the hashtag “Tong Liya Reports the Case to Authorities” (#佟丽娅报案#) receiving over 310 million clicks. On December 23rd, the hashtag “Beijing Police is Handling Tong Liya’s Report” (#北京警方受理佟丽娅报案#) went viral online, attracting over 1.7 billion (!) views on Weibo within three days.

The Beijing Haidian police statement on Weibo is as follows:

In response to the recent rumors on the Internet, the public security authorities have accepted Tong Liya’s report, and the case is now under investigation. The internet is not a place beyond the law, and illegal acts such as starting rumors and provoking trouble will be investigated and punished according to the law.”

The statement led to some confused responses among netizens who wanted to know more about what was actually reported and what it is the police are exactly ‘investigating.’

On Twitter, Vice reporter Viola Zhou wrote that the censorship “angered many young people,” some of whom lost their social media accounts for discussing Tong Liya’s second marriage: “It’s now prompting a mass pushback against the potential abuse of censorship power.”

In an attempt to circumvent censorship, and perhaps also ridicule it, some netizens even resorted to morse code to write about Tong Liya.

One Weibo post about the issue by Legal Daily received over 3000 comments, yet none were displayed at the time of writing.

The case is allegedly still being investigated by Beijing authorities.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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