Papi Jiang and Microcelebrity in China: A Multilevel Analysis

Angela Ke Li


The vibrancy of China’s microcelebrity phenomenon contrasts sharply with the scant scholarly attention paid to it. To address this lacuna, this article provides a systematic analysis of Papi Jiang, the most prominent and illustrative example of a Chinese microcelebrity. I argue that Papi’s rise to fame is dependent on a particular digital environment with technological and cultural specificities. By bringing the phenomenon of microcelebrity in China into the spotlight, my work complicates Western-dominated writings that tend to emphasize the performances of microcelebrities as portraying an authentic, intimate, and accessible self. This article also calls for a broader analytical framework for the study of microcelebrity that invokes a multilevel analysis. I argue that microcelebrity could be better understood through combining a microlevel investigation of its performances, a new focus on the active role of digital technologies, and close scrutiny of the broader media ecology and sociocultural contexts in which microcelebrity takes shape.


actor–network theory, gendered technology, performances, Papi Jiang, short video consumption, Chinese Internet

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