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PPA Talk Series 2023-2024: Becoming a State-Favored Star: An Analysis of Celebrity Co-optation in China

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Speaker: Prof. Chengli WANG, Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Public Administration, the University of Macau

Nothing in China is separate from politics, including people's entertainment. The state frequently uses celebrities from the entertainment industry to increase their influence over fandoms and the general public or to legitimize their rule. Several questions, however, remain. How does the state signal its preference for celebrities in the entertainment industry? What is the ideal type of celebrity for the state? What logic underpins the state's preference for celebrities? We compiled a unique dataset of over 6,000 Chinese celebrities to answer these questions. This dataset contains demographic information, political affiliations, levels of societal engagement, fandom metrics, accolades, film and television participation, and other metrics such as market valuation. The findings of our study show that specific individual characteristics, which were previously overlooked in the literature, significantly impact a person's probability of becoming a state-favored star. Second, the authority's perception of the preferred celebrity archetype shifts throughout the state's leadership. Third, despite this, celebrities with specific experiences have a significant advantage over others in receiving the state's endorsement. Finally, we use machine learning to predict potential emerging talents in the Chinese entertainment industry.

About the Speaker

Chengli Wang is an assistant professor in the Department of Government and Public Administration at the University of Macau. His research interests lie at the interface of experimental political science and comparative politics. His current research focuses on political communication in authoritarian regimes, especially political rumors (mis- and dis-information), information manipulation, and the digital divide. His work has been published, or will soon appear, in Comparative Political Studies, International Journal of Press/Politics, International Affairs, Political Studies, and Journal of Chinese Political Science, among other peer-reviewed journals.

Date: 2024-03-01, Fri
Time: 16:00
Venue: Room 966, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Poster link: An Analysis of Celebrity Co-optation in China-04.jpg