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Truth, Good and Beauty: The Politics of Celebrity in China

  • Jonathan Sullivan (a1) and Séagh Kehoe (a2)


A visit to a Chinese city of any size – looking up at downtown billboards, riding public transport, shopping at a mall – is to be in the presence of a Chinese celebrity endorsing a product, lifestyle or other symbols of “the good life.” Celebrity in China is big business, feeding off and nourishing the advertising-led business model that underpins the commercialized media system and internet. It is also a powerful instrument in the party-state's discursive and symbolic repertoire, used to promote regime goals and solidify new governmentalities through signalling accepted modes of behaviour for mass emulation. The multi-dimensional celebrity persona, and the public interest it stimulates in off-stage lives, requires an academic focus on the workings of celebrity separate to the products that celebrities create in their professional roles. The potential to connect with large numbers of ordinary people, and the emergence of an informal celebrity-making scene in cyberspace symptomatic of changing attitudes towards fame among Chinese people, marks the special status of celebrity within China's constrained socio-political ecology. The motivation for this article is to further scholarly understanding of how celebrity operates in China and to bring this expression of popular culture into the broader conversation about contemporary Chinese politics and society.

身处中国任何大中小城市, 无论是市中心广告牌、公共交通工具还是购物中心, 随处可见中国名人明星所代言的产品、生活方式及其他象征 “美好生活” 的事物。商业媒体体制和网络主要依赖于广告为中心的商业模式, 而中国名人明星作为一项巨型产业, 则与该模式相辅相成。同时, 名人产业也是党和国家话语及象征的强有力工具,通过名人发出可接受的行为信号, 鼓励大众效仿, 从而起到推动政体目标、巩固新治理术的目的。多方位的名人形象以及名人在舞台下的生活所激发的公众兴趣, 要求学术界对其运作方式做出分析, 并与名人在职业角色中塑造的作品分开。名人在互联网上与普罗大众进行互动的潜力, 以及新兴的互联网络名人现象, 都象征了民众对名望观念的蜕变, 同时也反映出名人在中国有限的社会政治生态中的特殊地位。本文旨在对中国的名人运作进行深入的学术探讨, 并在当代中国政治与社会的宏观背景下分析流行文化。


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