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Six Years after Chinese Pop Star Zhang Muyi (24) Declared Love for 12-Year-Old Miki Akama, They’re Now Tying the Knot

Zhang Muyi became her music coach when Miki Akama was only 8 years old. A decade later, the couple announces their wedding on Weibo.

Boyu Xiao

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Six years after Chinese pop star Zhang Muyi (1987) publicly declared his love for the then 12-year-old music pupil Miki Akama (2000), the two have now announced their wedding on Weibo. Although some say their love is meant-to-be, others say it is a case of pedophilia.

In 2012, it made international headlines when the then 24-year-old Chinese popstar Zhang Muyi publicly declared his love for 12-year-old Canada-born model Miki Akama.

The two met when Zhang Muyi was hired to be Miki’s music coach when she was only 8 years old. In 2012, Muyi wrote on Weibo that he “simply couldn’t wait” for Miki’s next four birthdays to pass, saying he was “counting down each one.”

24-year-old Zhang and 12-year-old Miki in 2012.

At the time, the 12-year-old Miki, whose mother is Chinese/German and whose father is Japanese, had already built up a fanbase of 500,000 followers on Weibo. She replied to Zhang, saying: “Wait until I’m old enough to marry you, and then I’m going to say “I do”.’

Six years later, the now 30-year-old Zhang Muyi (@张木易, 1.4 million followers on Weibo), and the 17-year-old Miki Akama (@张千巽, 1.8 million Weibo fans) have announced their wedding through social media.

On April 4, Zhang wrote on Weibo: “You’ve made me see the most beautiful picture in this world,” adding a photo of a wedding dress. Miki responded to the post, writing: “You make me as beautiful as I can be.”

He later added: “We are indeed preparing for our wedding in all kinds of ways. On September 11, 2018, Miki will turn 18, and it will be ten years since we first met.”

The wedding announcement prompted a wave of reactions. Within 48 hours after the post, Zhang’s photo had received 23,800 responses and nearly 18,000 shares. The couple became one of the most-searched hot topics on social media in China on April 6, and the hashtag “Zhang Muyi and Miki Akama Getting Married” (#张木易张千巽结婚#) received more than 85 million views by Friday.

Although there are many netizens who wish the couple a happy life and find their story romantic, there are also many opponents who think the base of the couple’s relationship is unhealthy.

Weibo account @LoveMatters (an account affiliated to RNW Media) writes:

In most parts of the world, it is hard to give blessing to a relationship between a teacher and their student. The fundamental reason for this is that there is an unequal power relation between teachers and students, which makes it difficult to speak of an equal and truly harmonious connection between two people. Let alone if one of the two persons is underage; this further intensifies the unequal relationship in terms of knowledge and experience. Let’s not even focus on whether or not this is pedophilia.

“We should discuss this from the angle of pedophilia,” one netizen responds: “Because even though it is now disguised as ‘romantic love’, its base still essentially is the relationship between an adult and an 8-year-old girl.”

Many others also say that this a “white-washing of pedophilia,” with some expressing that it makes them “feel like vomiting.”

In response to the controversy, Miki addressed their engagement on Weibo in a lengthy blog post.

In her statement, Miki expresses the shock at the negativity surrounding their wedding engagement, saying that people are “turning this story into something they want it to be,” and that they are downgrading her to a “brainless girl” who has been “living in the dark” all her life.

“I do want to correct something,” she writes:

There are people who are changing our story and are using the fact that I was 8 years old [when we met], and in doing so, are harming us and our loved ones. In their articles, they are deleting the part that really matters: When I was 8, I met Muyi and he was my music teacher; teaching me how to sing and teaching me self-confidence. By the time I was 12, my parents had let me read many books and see many movies, and I had a good education at school. Many of my friends with the same age as me had started reaching puberty and I also started to think about who I liked. I could talk to Muyi about everything. He said that when I would reach the age of dating, he would help me check them out. At the time I did not understand what it meant, and he said he would not let me date bad guys, because it is very easy for people to get hurt. Looking back now, Muyi was also still young at that time, so I told him that if he did not want me to get hurt in the future, he should just marry me. At the time we were just joking around, like playing house. With that uncomplicated promise, I grew up with him by my side. Of course, we will stay pure until marriage.”

Regardless of Miki’s statement, many netizens still hold their own opinions about the matter. Some compare Zhang and Miki to the case of the Taiwan lyricist Li Kuncheng (李坤城) and his wife Lin Jingen (林靖恩, 1996).

The couple became a big topic of discussion in 2015, when the then 58-year-old Li tied the knot with the then 18-year-old Lin.

Li Kuncheng with his 40 year younger fiancee in 2015, image via Asianpopnews.com.

About Zhang and Miki, one commenter writes: “I don’t think this is as serious as pedophilia. The goal of pedophilia is unpure [sex], but they have been together a long time. Zhang has no evil intentions.”

Still, many people express their worries about the situation, wondering “where the parents are” in this, and saying that they do not want their own children to be influenced by this.

By now, some experts and KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) have also gotten involved in the matter. While influential Nanjing police officer Wang Haiding (王海丁, @江宁婆婆) condemns the relationship, famous Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe (@李银河) says it does not meet the criteria of pedophilia.

Renowned Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe answers a question on Weibo about whether this is pedophilia or not.

The three principles of sex that I have proposed are that it is is voluntary, between adults, and in private. If it is in line with these three principles, it is not punishable by law. The law can punish adults who have sex with girls under the age of 14, but if they wait with having sex until they are both adults, then the law cannot control them. (..) Pedophiles are people who sexually assault children. This is clearly not the case here.

Amidst all controversy and analyses, many netizens just jokingly say: “I’m also ready to meet my future spouse – too bad they’re still in kindergarten.”

UPDATE – see our latest video about this topic here:

By Manya Koetse and Boyu Xiao

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Boyu Xiao is an MPhil graduate in Asian Studies (Leiden University/Peking University) focused on modern China. She has a strong interest in feminist issues and specializes in the construction of memory in contemporary China.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Zee

    April 7, 2018 at 9:38 am

    This is completely horrifying

  2. Avatar

    Xing

    April 7, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    This is creepy and a total abuse of power. This should have been shit down years ago.

  3. Avatar

    Steve

    April 12, 2018 at 12:19 am

    As long as they have not consummated before she reaches legal age….should be no concern. Age is just a number right.

    • Avatar

      Dan Pham

      April 23, 2018 at 7:38 am

      And jail is just a room

  4. Avatar

    Tanzim Adel Choudhury

    April 22, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Nahh, this is a CLEAR CASE of Child grooming…. u can’t PROVE that the guy didnt “do things” in-private……this is DANGEROUS!!!!

    where the Parents of the Two!?

    • Avatar

      Leon

      May 26, 2018 at 12:55 am

      Where are the parents? Celebrating the wedding and proud of their bloodline.

      How horrifying to see normal male partner preferences in public! Let’s face it! There is not a single straight male who wouldn’t feel attracted to a teenager.

      They liked each other, they fell in love, and now they are married. Healthier than Western culture where nice girls end up with trailer park losers and men are sick and tired of roasties with no worth.

      Age does not matter, personality does, and Muyi is a better man than most Westerners. He is even above me!

  5. Avatar

    winona

    May 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    i still react with disgust when i hear about these two. i find it really weird how in that guy’s entire life, he didn’t meet a single woman who he thought was compatible to be with, but instead saw his ideal romantic partner in a TWELVE YEAR OLD. she was still a CHILD, a children’s mindset and way of thinking is so underdeveloped, i don’t know how he could have ignored the fact that she was a child.
    however it seems that the time spent together have really allowed them both to feel completely comfortable with each other and develop a deep trust. although i don’t get what you could talk about with a TWELVE yr old — something they can completely understand and doesn’t taint their worldview with negativity.

    • Avatar

      Leon

      May 26, 2018 at 12:52 am

      Probably they talked about their likes, hopes, and dreams. Both loved music, that brought them together. And much likely Muyi was so emotionally stable he managed to benefit Miki when things got rough.

    • Avatar

      Unbelievable

      June 5, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      The part that confuses me the most is how a twelve year old girl could be interested in a guy twice her age. I mean, I get that kids are whimsical and sometimes develop “crushes” on older guys (this apparently happens😵). But the operative word here is “whimsical”, meaning that those feelings fade with maturity.

  6. Avatar

    Leon

    May 26, 2018 at 12:48 am

    Despite what these blind fools say. I wish good luck to the couple. I am pretty much sure their relationship is healthier those of anyone commenting here.

    Age is irrelevant, and in fact, once one hits puberty, science says, one is ready to be in a relationship. Better to be in a healthy relationship with someone of different age than in a toxic one with someone close in age.

    Actually let me rephrase that. We have been lied to. For a century we have been told age difference is wrong, especially if the woman is younger. The truth is otherwise. It is normal and healthy unless one of the parties has not reached puberty.

  7. Avatar

    Yhi

    May 29, 2018 at 5:51 am

    This is super sweet.

  8. Avatar

    Unbelievable

    June 5, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    Wwwoowww….okay so my first reaction is “ew ugh, why”. Though when I think about it, there isn’t anything technically wrong with this. People keep talking about “pedophilia”, but this guy waited six years for her to turn 18, and stayed with her all that time…and now they’re married. Pedophilia is an attraction to kids, usually in a physical sense. Obviously I have basically no knowledge of this situation other than the article here, but it doesn’t appear to be as “sick” as people claim. Even so, the fact that a 24 year old guy developed feelings for a 12 year old girl makes absolutely zero sense to me. I mean, if it’s real and it works, then cool. But last I checked, 12 year old girls weren’t about dating adults. Though I guess it’s lucky that he wasn’t some 40 year old guy, like that one story.😒

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Idol Survival Shows – The Start of a New ‘Idol Era’

Idol reality survival shows are riding a new wave of popularity in China.

Yin Lin Tan

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China has a vibrant online popular culture media environment, where new trends and genres come and go every single day. Chinese idol survival shows, however, have seen continued success and now seem to go through another major peak in popularity. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin explains.

On May 30, the finale of Chinese online video platform iQIYI’s Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) broke the Internet. Official videos on iQIYI’s Youtube channel garnered over 300 million views. At the time of writing, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” (#青春有你2总决赛#) has 3.15 billion views; the hashtag “Youth With You 2” (#青春有你2#) has 14.5 billion views. 

In recent years, China has produced a slew of so-called ‘idol survival shows.’ They have enjoyed much popularity among local audiences, as well as overseas—more than 393 hashtags related to Youth With You 2 trended in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. In this overview, we explore the background, status quo, and future of China’s idol survival shows.

 

The Start of The ‘Idol Wave’ in China 

 

In China’s idol survival reality shows, so-called ‘trainees’, or aspiring idols, participate in a series of different challenges to compete for a chance to debut.

The ‘idol culture’ (偶像文化) has been dominating popular culture in Japan and South Korea for many years. An idol is, in short, a heavily commercialized multi-talented entertainer that is marketed – sometimes as a product – for image, attractiveness, and personality, either alone or with a group.

Especially K-pop and the Korean entertainment industry have since long been extremely popular among Chinese youth, heavily influencing pop culture in China today (more about Korean and Japanese idols here and here, and also read our article “Why Korean Idol Groups Got So Big in China and are Conquering the World“).

These kinds of shows are ubiquitous in South Korea’s popular culture, with Produce 101 (2016) becoming one of the most popular and successful South Korean reality series ever. 

The concept is simple. Every week, viewers vote for their favorite contestant. Trainees with insufficient votes during elimination rounds are eliminated from the competition. 

Nine Percent, the group formed from Idol Producer (Source).

The group formed from the final trainees then goes on to ‘promote’ for a period of time, usually one to two years.

This method of creating an idol group, in which the members are basically selected by their own fans, is a major way to bridge existing distances between fans and their idols. Fan participation is a key factor in the success of idol reality shows.

While China has had several idol survival shows, iQIYI’s Idol Producer (青春有你, 2018) was the first to reach levels of popularity similar to that of South Korea’s Produce 101

Idol Producer premiered in January 2018 with Zhang Yixing as the host and Li Ronghao, MC Jin, Cheng Xiao, Zhou Jieqiong, and Jackson Wang serving as mentors.

This first season of Idol Producer brought together a total of hundred trainees. Though most trainees were from China, there were a few from overseas, such as You Zhangjing from Malaysia and Huang Shuhao from Thailand. The younger brother of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Fan Chengcheng, also participated in the show.

The first episode of Idol Producer attracted more than 100 million views within the first hour of broadcasting. In the final episode, more than 180 million votes were cast, with first-place winner Cai Xukun raking in more than 47 million votes.  

Trainees performing on Produce 101 China (Source).

Two months after Idol Producer, Tencent launched Produce 101 China (创造101) in March 2018. Both shows marked the start of the ‘idol wave’ in China. 

In the next two years, more idol survival shows would dominate the Chinese entertainment scene. iQIYI released Youth With You 1 (青春有你) and Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Tencent, too, released Produce Camp 2019 (创造营2019) and Produce Camp 2020 (创造营2020), the latter of which is currently airing. 

 

China’s New Idol Survival Show Era 

 

In 2018, both Produce 101 China and Idol Producer enjoyed overwhelming popularity, accumulating more than 4.73 billion views and 3 billion views respectively. Their sequels, however, have failed to achieve the same level of success.

At the time of writing, 150,000 viewers have completed Youth With You 1 on Chinese community site Douban, versus 470,000 viewers for its predecessor, Idol Producer. Additionally, the number of votes cast for the first episode of Youth With You 1 was much lower compared to its Idol Producer equivalent. 

The number of votes for the top 19 trainees on Idol Producer (left) versus Youth With You 1 (right) in the first episode (Source).

As for Produce 101 China, 510,000 viewers have completed the show on Douban, but only 340,000 viewers have finished watching its sequel. 

Groups formed from these shows have met with varying amounts of success and have run into problems regarding scheduling conflicts. 

Nine Percent, the boy group formed from Idol Producer in 2018, was known as a group that rarely met. Their second album was a compilation of tracks from solo members. Members had existing contracts with their own companies while simultaneously promoting with Nine Percent; hence, due to scheduling conflicts, members would often forgo Nine Percent activities for those of their own company. 

Rocket Girls from Produce 101 China. (Source)

Rocket Girls, formed from Produce 101 China, also faced problems after debuting. Due to conflicts between Tencent and their management company, Yuehua Entertainment, Meng Meiqi and Wu Xuanyi, who placed first and second respectively, left the group two months after debut.

Despite the problems faced by groups formed from such shows, some idols were able to ride on the momentum they gained from participating.

For instance, Cai Xukun, first-place winner of Idol Producer, swiftly rose to become one of the most popular trainees on the show, consistently ranking first place in every round of elimination. He was also the host of the recently concluded Youth With You 2.

Liu Yuxin obtained first place in the last episode of Youth With You 2. (Source)

Other trainees have also seen individual success. Liu Yuxin, the first-place winner of Youth With You 2, gained attention for her androgynous look: short hair, a cool personality, and wearing shorts instead of a skirt. Her hashtag “Liu Yuxin” (#刘雨昕#) has been viewed more than 550 million times on Weibo. In the final episode, she received more than 17 million votes.

Despite the lowering audience ratings for other recent idol shows, the success of Youth With You 2 might mark the start of a new ‘idol era’. Even Chinese netizens wondered why the show is so popular compared to Youth With You 1.

Just one day after the finale premiered, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” had already been viewed more than 2.2 billion times on Weibo. On Douban, 580,000 viewers have finished the show—more than any of the previous idol survival shows by iQIYI and Tencent.

 

The Future of Idol Survival Shows 

 

Chinese idol survival shows were received with much fanfare when they first entered mainstream popular culture in 2018. But the ensuing conflicts that the resulting groups ran into resulted in netizens doubting the success and effectiveness of these shows. 

Trainees from Produce Camp 2020 practicing for the theme song. Source

This year, however, the popularity of both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 might signal a comeback for the idol era in China.

And this time around, Chinese idol survival shows are also gaining more traction outside of the PRC, becoming more and more popular among global audiences. Both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 have been well-received by viewers from many different countries.

On social media, online commenters praise the two shows – and Chinese idol survival shows in general – for having a more “laid-back atmosphere” between the trainees and mentors. Web users also comment that they enjoy how the shows highlight the friendship between the trainees, rather than the feuds.

It seems that what sets Chinese idol survival shows apart from the South Korean ones is precisely why some viewers prefer them. The longer running times, for example, makes it possible to give more screen time to the different trainees and to give a deeper understanding of the relations between them.

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Reddit comment on Episode 9 of Idol Producer. Source

With the popularity of idols like Liu Yuxin and Wang Ju who challenge conventional beauty standards, shows can also look into moving away from the cookie-cutter aesthetic that idols usually adhere to. 

Furthermore, management companies and broadcasting companies have to come to an agreement regarding what scheduling arrangement would benefit all parties and be conducive towards the idols’ physical and mental health. 

Selected trainees from Produce Camp 2020 took part in a photoshoot with Elle. Source

It remains to be seen whether THE9, the newly formed group from Youth With You 2, will be able to flourish in the time to come and avoid the troubles that other groups ran into. 

As for Produce Camp 2020, it seems set to enjoy just as much success as Youth With You 2 did – if not more. Only five episodes have been released, but the show’s hashtag already has 16.1 billion views.

A reviewer on Douban writes: “The trainees are all confident, taking opportunities to express themselves and actively showcase their talents. So much youthful and positive energy!” 

The latest newcomers to the idol reality show genre further consolidate the success of the format. Recently, Mango TV released Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风波浪的姐姐们, 2020), where female celebrities above 30 years old compete to make it into the final five-member girl group. The first episode was viewed more than 370 million times within the first three days of release and immediately became top trending on Weibo.

The number of survival shows in China right now and their growing popularity shows that audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the genre. It is an indication that, despite setbacks in the past, China’s idol survival reality show genre is still going strong and might be here to stay.

You can watch the currently airing Produce Camp 2020 and Sisters Who Make Waves here and here.

By Yin Lin Tan

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

How Chinese Kuaishou Rebel ‘Pangzai’ Became a Twitter King

He’s been called a ‘Twitter king’, but how did the unexpected online fame of this ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Jessica Colwell

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Twitter has fallen in love with a Chinese farmer after his drinking videos on Kuaishou were cross-posted abroad and went viral. He has embraced his new fans and Western social media, arguably becoming one of China’s most successful cultural ambassadors of the year.

He describes himself as the “inventor of tornado beer drinking style” and as an “ordinary peasant from China.” ‘Hebei Pangzai’ only joined Twitter in August of 2019, but he already has a Twitter following of more than 111.6K.

Although his account is temporarily restricted by Twitter at time of writing (“due to suspicious activity”), his popularity is only growing. Some Twitterers, such as the China twitterer Carl Zha (@CarlZha), are even initiating a “#FreePangzai campaign” to restore the account of the “one true King.”

But where and when did the online fame of ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Let’s begin our introduction to Pangzai with one tweet from March of this year, when Twitter user ‘Hunnaban Trenchboss’ posted a video from Chinese short video app Kuaishou (快手) showing a man – ‘Pangzai’ – wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette while preparing an incredible mixed drink.

The man in the video smoothly pops the cap off a bottle of beer with a chopstick, pours some in a large jar, then twirls the bottle and propels the rest of the beer in a tornado of force down his throat.

He follows that up by pouring in more beer, some blue liquor, an egg, some Pepsi, and a hefty glass of baijiu – which he dumps in only after lighting it on fire, igniting his finger, and coolly lighting his cigarette. He then chugs the entire concoction in a matter of seconds.

“How do I become as cool as this guy, The Coolest Guy?”, the tweet said.

The same video was shared again in August by a few Russian accounts, was retweeted by an American account, and then went completely viral, racking up millions of views and tens of thousands of retweets.

That video has now been viewed almost 12 million times on Twitter, and has inspired tens of thousands of fans who herald him as ‘king.’

The man in the video referred to as ‘Pangzai’ (胖仔, ‘chubby dude’) is Liu Shichao (刘世超), a 33-year-old farmer and small-time Chinese internet celebrity from a city called Xingtai in Hebei Province.

According to an interview with Technode, he found out about the video on Twitter when some of his new foreign fans opened Chinese social media accounts to find him and tell him about his overnight online fame.

“One message told me that I was a celebrity now in America,” he told Technode: “So I chatted with the person [who sent the message] for a whole day, with the help of translation software.”

Within two days of his video going viral, Pangzai had figured out how to use a VPN, opened his own Twitter account and started uploading videos.

He even posted a reply on the original viral video to alert everybody to his account.

Liu’s early response to his viral video on Twitter.

Since then, Liu ‘Pangzai’ has amassed over 111,000 followers and has posted many more videos of everything from drinking, to cooking, to exploring his countryside hometown.

But it was the drinking videos specifically that earned him his following, both abroad and in China.

 

IT STARTED ON KUAISHOU

“Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account.”

 

Liu began his internet career three years ago on Kuaishou, a Chinese short video app massively popular among China’s lower-tier cities and countryside.

In contrast to the polished, celeb-heavy platform Douyin, which is most popular among urban youths, Kuaishou is a platform for the masses. Its users are known for their crazy antics and general disregard for personal safety.

Liu Shichao’s Kuaishou account has 354,000 followers, but the majority of his videos have been removed.

Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account. Posting under the handle “Chubby Dude from Hebei” (@河北胖仔), he uploads videos of himself eating and drinking in eye-popping combinations, or sometimes smashing things – from bricks to unopened water bottles – with his bare hands.

Liu’s video of breaking bricks with his hands was also popular on Twitter.

Liu also gained notoriety, and a couple hundred thousand followers, from his mastery of the so-called ‘beer tornado technique’ (小旋风 xiǎo xuànfēng).

According to an interview with the BBC, he peaked at 470,000 followers on Kuaishou and was monetizing his online fame with some 10,000 RMB ($1420) per month.

Liu’s signature beer tornado technique features in the first video he posted to Twitter.

Unfortunately for Liu, China’s Cyberspace Administration announced a crackdown on vulgar and illegal content across multiple social media platforms in spring of 2018, with a focus on Douyin, Kuaishou, and its sister news company Jinri Toutiao. Kuaishou was pulled from app stores until it cleaned up its act.

It is unclear just how many videos and accounts have been removed as a result of the cleanup. We can get a rough idea from an announcement by Kuaishou earlier this year that in March of 2019 alone, it removed an average of over 11,000 videos and blocked almost 1,000 accounts every day.

The result for Liu was that his account was suspended for four months and the majority of his most popular videos, including the one that went viral abroad, were removed for promoting ‘unhealthy drinking habits.’

When you look at his Kuaishou account today, you won’t see many videos focused solely on baijiu and beer chugging.

The videos that remain on his account do include drinking (and his signature tornado move) but it is always accompanied by eating food or some other activity (such as sitting deep in a field of corn, munching on roast duck and dribbling baijiu down a corn leaf into a glass.)

In a video posted to Kuaishou, Liu pours baijiu into a glass from a corn leaf, before then lighting it on fire and chugging it.

Liu still has 354,000 followers on Kuaishou. His Chinese fans, like his foreign ones, marvel at his cool and collected manner as he eats and drinks all sorts of disgusting things.

Canned herring features heavily in his most popular recent videos, where he can be seen sipping the juice directly from the can.

In one of his videos on Kuaishou, Liu eating herring directly from the can, to the disgust of his fans.

“This has to be the most unaffected anyone has ever been by eating canned herring,” says one fan. “The flavor is disgusting! 99.9% of people who try this would vomit,” another online commenter replies.

 

AN UNEXPECTED TWITTER KING

“Liu is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life.”

 

This year, Liu seems to have embraced his newfound international stardom with grace and savvy.

He uses Twitter’s in-app translation to help him communicate with fans and has been highly interactive on the platform.

Liu ‘Pangzai’ was also quick to open up a Paypal account and share it with followers, and has recently made YouTube and Instagram accounts to prevent scams pretending to be him. He has also collaborated with a Twitter fan to sell T-shirts online in America.

Many online fans have dubbed him ‘king’, perhaps the highest praise one can receive on the internet today.

But in contrast to the sunglasses and chill demeanor of his videos, Liu does not appear to be an internet celebrity overly obsessed with being cool.

Instead, he is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life (and drinking habits) with the rest of the world.

Liu began using translation software to communicate with fans soon after joining Twitter.

After reposting all of his old drinking videos from Kuaishou, Liu started asking Twitter fans what they would like to see from him. Many responded that they wanted more about his life in rural China.

He has since followed up with videos showing him fixing a pipe with his friends, exploring his local market, cooking sweet potatoes, and, of course, a tutorial on how to master the ‘tornado beer’ technique.

Liu explaining on Twitter how to perform the tornado beer technique that helped make him famous.

Many have expressed concern for his health in light of his drinking habits, but he has assured everybody that everything he does is “within his ability” and that he doesn’t drink like that very often.

Liu is grateful for all the support and praise he has received from abroad. “It’s crazy to have all of these foreign friends all of a sudden,” he recently said in an interview with Deadspin: “I really have to thank them a lot. If I have a chance I will find them and we can drink together.”

Seemingly to that end, Liu has recently organized a party to be held near his hometown in China, exciting fans all over the world and spurring many to apply for passports and visas.

Once Liu began inviting people to his party, he changed the date and location in order to accommodate more attendees.

The date is set for December 14, 2019 in Zhuamadian City, Hebei Province; too soon for many to make it, but he promises another party in the spring. There is talk also of organizing a visit for Liu ‘Pangzai’ to go to America.

 

WINDOW INTO CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA

“Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet.”

 

Although there are many vloggers like Pangzai in China, he stands out on Twitter as some sort of window into Chinese social media, especially because this online world is usually so separate from the Western realms of social media.

The recent explosive growth of Chinese social media apps such as TikTok has not done much to facilitate this kind of cultural interaction between China and the West.

Although Tiktok is, in fact, a Chinese app (called Douyin 抖音 in China), there are actually two different versions of the same app in mainland China and abroad, meaning that the other ‘Pangzais’ of the Chinese internet still remain within the social media spheres of the PRC, rarely gaining fame outside of the Great Firewall.

In China, aside from his fans on Kuaishou, Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet. He is mentioned only one or two times across Weibo, and searches for his name and handle on WeChat, Baidu, and various Chinese tech news sites bring up nothing.

Liu is a rare example of genuine soft power coming out of China. A pure, grassroots man of the people with strong cultural appeal who sincerely enjoys sharing his life and his culture with the rest of the world. His tweets are full of affection and appreciation for his fans, as well as frequent prompts for followers to share their own lives and customs of their home countries.

To watch his introduction to Twitter and rise to fame is to see the best of the internet: cultural interaction, genuinely shared delight, and mutual admiration inspired by hilarious antics caught on camera.

His Twitter fans express their hope that Twitter Support will soon lift the temporary ban on their ‘Twitter king.’ To them, it’s perfectly clear: this online king is nowhere near dead, long live Pangzai!

Follow the #FreePangzai hashtag on Twitter.

Update: Panghaizi is out of Twitter jail!

 
Want to read more about unexpected online celebrities from China? Also see:
The Story of Two Farmers Who Became Internet Celebrities;
The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor”;
From Farmgirl to Fashionista: Weibo Celebrity Fairy Wang.

 

By Jessica Colwell
Follow @whatsonweibo

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