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China Fashion & Beauty

The Perfect Selfie: China vs America

Manya Koetse



People are taking selfies all over the world. The way they take them, however, differs per culture. In China, taking the perfect selfie is not about full face make-up and sexy looks, but about snow white skin and big eyes, Claire Kane writes.

Selfies are an integral part of the world of social media. With smartphones and selfie sticks, it is easier than ever before for people to take a ‘self-portrait’ and share it with the world through social media platforms such as Instagram, Weibo, Wechat, Facebook or Twitter.

Self-representation through digital technology is not just a way of presenting ourselves to others, it is also a way for us to record moments in our lives to remember for the future. In Seeing Ourselves Through Technology, Jill Walker Rettberg explores the phenomenon of selfies; why people take them and how they are perceived.

Website Style.Mic recently published an article by Clare Kane (@clare_kane) about what the difference in selfies between America and China can tell us about beauty standards. According to the article, although there are many overlaps in selfie esthetics, there are some basic differences between beauty ideals in America and China that are discernible in how women take selfies. Chinese ‘selfie culture’ is influenced by South Korea and Japan, that have similar beauty standards.

One of the main differences, according to the article, is that Chinese women prefer to be pale. Whereas the majority of women in the US prefer a bronzed skin, this is not the case in China. In Chinese language ‘Miss Perfect’ translates as ‘baifumei‘ (白富美), literally meaning white-skinned, rich and beautiful. For the perfect selfie, the skin is therefore made to look as white as possible, either through make-up, lighting, or through a photo app that enhances one’s skin.


American celebrity Kim Kardashian (left), and Chinese celebrity ‘Angelababy’ (right).

Except for pale skin, big eyes are also a prerequisite for the ‘perfect selfie’. China’s beauty industry benefits from these beauty ideals, and does not only offer a myriad of products that help women whiten their skin; it also sells a selection of products that are supposed to make the eyes look bigger.

Influenced by Western and Japanese beauty ideals, a small face and pointed chin have also become part of Chinese beauty ideals. Well-known Weibo blogger Vincent Lau has become famous for his selfies with an extremely pointed face and big eyes.


Another difference, according to the article, is that women in the US like selfies that portray themselves as  sexy and curvy. In China, it is not about sex but about looking ‘cute’. Being ‘cute’ often means looking as innocent as possible.


American celebrity Katy Perry selfie versus Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing selfie. 

Chinese beauty standards are most easily attained through the use of photo app Pitu (天天P图 ), that comes with many possibilities. Like the Meitu app (美图), which is also popular, Pitu is a camera and retouch app that offers a myriad of different filters to take the prettiest selfie. It allows users to make themselves whiter, make the face smaller and enlarge eyes.

Selfies in China and America do not always follow the general beauty esthetics. Last year’s Weibo trend of taking selfies showing of armpit hair also made it in America, where even Madonna showed off some natural hair.


The message: women should not feel pressured to comply with society’s beauty standards. What is most important is that they feel comfortable with themselves.

– By Manya Koetse

Featured image: selfie of Kim Kardashian versus Chinese celebrity Fan Bing Bing.

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Brands & Marketing

Much Ado About Big Breasts: Two Controversies Surrounding Busty Women on Chinese Social Media

“What’s wrong with looking at beautiful women and men on the Internet?”

Manya Koetse



A science blogger liking a sexy selfie, a marketing livestream showing pretty ladies dancing around in tight clothes. Sexual objectification of women or much ado about nothing?

This week, the popular WeChat account Brother News (新闻哥) published an article authored by ‘Sister News’ (新闻妹) addressing two recent controversial hot topics on Chinese social media related to attractive, busty young women.

According to the author, two parties have “unjustly” been smeared for their appreciation of beautiful women: the first is a science blogger, and the second is a coconut water brand.

Slammed for Liking a Hot Girl Pic

Xiao Liang (小亮) is a Chinese blogger focused on science and biology who got caught up in controversy this week for liking a photo showing an attractive, well-proportioned woman.

Xiao Liang has over 6,4 million fans on his Weibo account and his fans apparently take great interest in his online activities as some of them ‘exposed’ how Xiao Liang had liked (👍) this selfie post by a female fitness blogger.

The photos ‘liked’ by Xiao Liang.

Some people commented that it was distasteful or even vulgar for a well-known science blogger to like such photos of a hot girl, especially as a married man with children. Other expressed disappointment because this behavior did not meet their expectations of him.

On October 9, Xiao Liang responded to the controversy in a post, claiming that he unintentionally had pressed the ‘like’ button for these particular photos but also saying that he does not see what would be wrong about liking a photo of a beautiful woman.

The female whose photos were liked by Xiao Liang also hinted at the controversy in one of her recent posts. “Share beauty,” she wrote: “It’s ok to appreciate beauty.”

Coconut Palm Controversy

During the National Day holiday, there was also some commotion over a series of promotional live streams on video platform Douyin by Chinese popular coconut milk brand Coconut Palm (椰树椰汁).

Coconut Palm’s live stream featured several attractive, busty women in tight tops and shorts dancing in front of the camera. The stream was cut off multiple times by Douyin (#椰树集团直播带货风格引争议#).

As reported by South China Morning Post, Coconut Palm has been fined twice before by local authorities for advertisements and packaging suggesting its product could promote breast enlargement.

They even released a drink packaging in 2016 shaped like a woman with big breast.

Its whole marketing strategy revolves around attractive people and busty women, and its ambassador slogan is something along the lines of “I grew up by drinking it since I was little,” but in between the lines this could also suggest “I got big [breasts] by drinking it since I was little” (#我从小喝到大#).

Both issues have triggered discussions on Chinese social media about feminine aesthetics in online culture today.

There are two sides on this discussion; there are those who criticize the objectification of women and say that it is all about the ‘male gaze’ in media culture, meaning that women are intentionally portrayed in a certain way to attract the attention of men.

But there are also many others who think people should mind their own business and should not criticize others for something as simple as appreciating a beautiful shape.

Brother News pointed out that Coconut Palm also featured attractive men in its advertising campaigns: “What’s wrong with looking at beautiful women and men on the Internet? We want to see them! We want to see them!

The author of the Brother News article also wonders what it actually means when people get slammed for liking beautiful women, and asks what this says about the women themselves: are they not considered ‘good women’ because of how they look? Is it an actual criticism of men’s behavior or is this more about female rivalry?

Some think people have lost their sense of humor. “I just think it’s funny, both the Xiao Liang thing and the Coconut Palm issue.”

Others wrote: “I like that drink and I like looking at pretty women, I don’t see a problem with it.”

“Some netizens complain about online control, while they are the ones who are even more controlling,” one person commented.

By Manya Koetse 

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.


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China Comic & Games

Chinese Woman Taken Away by Suzhou Police for Wearing Japanese Kimono

The Chinese cosplayer was taken away by police for dressing up as a Japanese manga character: “You are wearing a kimono, as a Chinese. You are Chinese!”

Manya Koetse



A Chinese female cosplayer who was dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking pictures in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area was taken away by local police for ‘provoking trouble.’ The incident has sparked concerns on Chinese social media.

A Chinese woman who was making street pictures of herself while dressed in a kimono was taken away by local Suzhou police for “picking quarrels” and “provoking trouble.”

A video that circulated on Chinese social media this week showed the local policeman talking to the young woman and screaming at her for wearing the Japanese kimono, suggesting she is not allowed to do so as a Chinese person.

“If you would be wearing Hanfu [Chinese traditional clothing], I would never have said this,” the policeman can be heard saying: “But you are wearing a kimono, as a Chinese. You are Chinese!” The video stops when the girl is taken away.

The incident happened on August 10 at Huaihai Street in Suzhou New District. Huaihai Street is also called “Little Tokyo” because the area is home to many Japanese businesses and restaurants.

The girl, who was previously active on Weibo under the nickname ‘Shadow not Self’ (是影子不是本人) is known to be a cosplayer, someone who likes to dress up a as a character from anime, TV show, or other works of fiction.

On the evening of August 10, she dressed up as the character Ushio Kofune from the Japanese manga series Summer Time Rendering, wearing a cotton summer kimono, better known as yukata. After she took some pictures to reenact a scene from the fictional work, she waited for her order at a local takoyaki place when the local officers approached her and eventually took her away.

According to a social media post by ‘Shadow not Self,’ she was released from the police station five hours later after she received some ‘education’ and police investigated the contents of her phone.

The scene from Summer Time Rendering that ‘Shadow not Self’ wanted to reenact while doing cosplay in Suzhou’s Huaihai street.

The incident first started surfaced on Chinese social media on the night of August 14 and then went viral on August 15, which marked the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

“Has even cosplay become dangerous now?” some commenters on Weibo wondered, with others calling the actions by the police “scary.”

“It’s just cosplay!” “How did she break the law?” many wondered, with some people calling the officer “incompetent.”

The kimono worn by ‘Shadow not Person’ is sold on Taobao for 158 yuan ($23).

Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) also weighed in on the issue via his social media channel (#胡锡进谈女孩穿和服被带走#). Although emphasizing the legal right Chinese citizens have to wear a kimono in public, Hu also mentioned that at a time of tense Sino-Japanese relations – noting Japan’s cooperation with the U.S. “to contain China” – there is a growing antipathy towards Japan, resulting in different perceptions of what it means to wear a kimono.

Nevertheless, Hu wrote, “a kimono is not a Japanese military uniform, and there is no legal reason why it should be banned.”

Hu also warned: “But when someone wants to wear a kimono, I would advise them to pay attention to their surroundings to prevent causing displeasure to those around them and, more importantly, to try to avoid becoming the center of unnecessary controversy themselves. There’s nothing wrong with respecting the feelings of the majority.”

Later on Monday night, CCTV uncoincidentally promoted a topic (#穿汉服就是回到古代吗#) related to wearing Hanfu or traditional Chinese clothing, writing: “As Chinese national traditional clothing, Hanfu can be fully integrated into modern daily life. (..) Change into Hanfu, let the beautiful culture move forward in a new era!”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes and Xianyu Wang


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