China Targets Top Internet Fandals in a New Crackdown

At its worst, a celebrity’s devotion can be “like internet addiction,” Fung says. In a 2019 article, he described a symbiosis between online fan groups and streaming programs. His research assistant spent four months after the Tencent Video pop-group creation show Product 101, and joined fan groups on Tencent’s platform, Doki. Fans are encouraged to log in daily as visits are included in the rank of an idol; others pay for promotions and rally votes. The research assistant’s participation in a paid online fan circle and her efforts to rally support for a contestant finally earned her an invitation to join the VIP fan group and a ticket to show’s finale, where scalped tickets cost over $ 400 online.

These young people, often just children, face severe academic demands and pressure from parents and grandparents to succeed. The celebrity fandom offered an escape, said Zhao, who helped manage social media for a popular singer-songwriter, and asked to be identified only by his last name.

Zhao says that for some participants, fan groups “may be the first and only communities they take the initiative to join.” Clubs allow them to associate almost exclusively with people they don’t have access to — like “the manager of fan groups who becomes a Harvard graduate or the mayor’s daughter.”

But intense devotion has worried some Chinese parents, said Grace Zhang, a parent and former editor of a magazine with a family theme called JingKids. “The pursuit of fame and money has become a goal in the lives of some young people, rather than a quest for true meaning in their lives,” he said.

Xia Wei, the parent of a middle-school-aged girl in Shanghai, favored these laws because she was concerned that young Chinese would otherwise “worship the stars all day long. It would be detrimental to their study. ” Wang Jun, the mother of a preteen in Beijing, says the money spent by the stars is harmful, because these “stars have high incomes, and are not worthy of their parents’ salaries.”

With the new rules, the government hopes to gain favor with parents like this, as Perry Link, a professor at UC Riverside. He says the ruling Communist Party pays little attention to young people who waste time and money in pursuit of idols, nor on the moral character of those idols. But if parents believe the party is on their side, it can help strengthen its power.

The rules promise to shake up China’s cultural landscape. Zhao, the manager of social media, says traditional singers and actors can regain the popularity lost to performers with groups of fans pushing their favorites with crazy activity online. Brands can also “consider whether they rely too heavily on the effects of celebrities and fan club culture, while ignoring their own DNA and brand image,” said Sophia Dumenil, co-founder of The Chinese Pulse, a Paris -based creative consulting agency that studies fashion trends and luxury markets.

Luxury, fashion, and beauty brands are likely to pivot to more endorsement from straight-laced Olympic athletes or even collaborations with virtual influencers, he added. Online video platforms like iQiyi and Tencent Video may suffer without their widely-watched idol pop movies, but they may be looking to create new forms of programming — and others felt that the format of idol competition was slowing down. Not a single platform answered the questions.

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