In January 2021, “Star Power List,” a popular social media account under Shanghai Zixiao Cultural Media Center, announced its list of the top 10 male actors in 2020. The ranking is based on data integrated from Baidu, Weibo, WeChat and other leading social media platforms, and includes young actors (all between 24 to 34 years old) who are influential and have strong fan bases.
While Chinese fans are crazy about their idols, questions have also been raised about the shortlisted stars’ authenticity. Are they truly talented enough to merit selection? Or have they been chosen because they fit the currently popular physical ideals? Let’s jump to the list and see who came out on top.
10. CHENG Yi (singer/actor)
Cheng Yi graduated from one of China’s top art universities, Central Academy of Drama, in 2012 and made his film acting debut soon after, appearing in the horror film “Haunting Love.” Four years later, he gained broader attention for his role on the Chinese xianxia (martial arts fantasy) TV series, “Noble Aspirations” (Qing Yun Zhi), in which he played an upright and sober senior apprentice. His most recent work was the hit xianxia series “Love and Redemption,” which premiered in August 2020. With a leading role that required him to wear a mask that covered half of his face, Cheng had to rely on his acting skills (especially through his eyes) to convey his character’s emotions.
Recommended Reading: A Thousand Years Of Devotion: 5 Reasons To Watch C-Drama “Love And Redemption”, Soompi
9. LUO Yunxi (actor/ singer/ dancer)
Luo Yunxi (Lei Luo) graduated from the Shanghai Theater Academy with a major in ballet, and became a dance instructor and a singer in the JBOY3 bands (disbanded in 2012). The experience brought him several nominations and awards, easing his move into acting. In 2015, Luo became well known for his role in the hit romance drama “My Sunshine.” His career breakthrough came with the fantasy romance drama “Ashes of Love,” in which he plays Runyu, the tragic antagonist who had survived a traumatic childhood, a villain that the audiences could not hate. Luo followed up with the wuxia romance drama “And The Winner Is Love,” and the modern office romance drama “Love Is Sweet.” With a growing list of credits, Luo was awarded the “Popular Actor of the Year” at the 2020 iQiyi Scream Night, highlighting his popularity among audiences.
Recommended Reading: Luo Yunxi in Collaboration With the C-beauty Giant “Perfect Dairy”, Jing Daily
8. ZHANG Xincheng (actor/ model)
Zhang Xincheng (Steven Zhang), another graduate of the Central Academy of Drama, is one of the few Chinese idol / actors fluent in English. He dubbed for the English trailer of the hit sports romance “Skate Into Love” (Bing Tang Dun Xue Li) in 2020, in which he portrayed a collegiate ice hockey player who looks cold but actually sweet and childish. The character’s success turned Zhang into one of the top three “school hunk” figures on Weibo, based on netizen votes. Born in 1995, Zhang made his acting debut in the TV drama “Shuttle Love Millennium” (2016) and appeared in numerous campus romance dramas in the following years, including the “My Huckleberry Friends” (2018) and “Young Blood” (2019).
Recommended Reading: Four C-Dramas to Watch Starring “Go Ahead” Actor Steven Zhang, Soompi
7. LI Yifeng (actor/ singer)
Li Yifeng drew extensive attention as the lead in the film “Animal World” (2018), a thriller adapted from a Japanese manga, with Michael Douglas co-starring as the manipulator behind the curtain. The film received positive critical reviews and topped the box office in the week of its release. Prior to that, Li made his feature film debut in Guan Hu’s 2016 drama film “Mr. Six” (Lao Paor) in a role that won Best Supporting Actor at the Hundred Flowers Awards, China’s most prestigious film honors. Li’s booming popularity saw him ranked ninth on the Forbes China Celebrity list in 2015 and eleventh in 2017. His recent work includes the 2020 hit historical political TV series “Fearless Whispers” and the modern workplace drama “Wait in Beijing,” in which he played a Chinese-American orphan living in Brooklyn.
Recommended Reading: “Animal World”: Film Review, The Hollywood Reporter
6. LI Xian (actor)
Li Xian is currently one of the most popular actors in China’s film and television industry. After graduating from Beijing Film Academy, Li won his first leading role in iQiyi’s high-rated suspense series “Tientsin Mystic” (2017), which drew strong reviews and high ratings. The show brought Li the “Most Popular Actor” honor at the 2017 Netease Awards. Li rose to the A-list of Chinese actors in 2019 with his starring role in the esports romantic comedy series “Go Go Squid!, in which he played a cold and introverted, yet ambitious, pro gamer. In 2020, Li was awarded “Breakthrough Actor of the Year” at the Weibo Awards and made his CCTV Spring Festival Gala debut. His growing popularity has drawn a slew of commercial endorsements and appearances on the covers of Chinese GQ and Vogue magazines.
Recommended Reading: China’s Changing Masculinity Propels a Brand New Idol, Jing Daily
5. DENG Lun (actor)
A graduate of Shanghai Theatre Academy, Deng Lun (Allen Deng) gained popularity for his role in fantasy romance drama “Ashes of Love” in 2018, playing the Heavenly Realm’s eldest prince, Xu Feng. After the show began airing on Jiangsu TV, its ratings climbed to the top of the charts and it was the top-rated show of the 2018 peak summer viewing season. The show represented Deng Lun’s third time co-starring with the award-winning actress Yang Zi. Prior to “Ashes of Love,” they appeared in the hit romance drama “Flowers in Fog”（2013), adapted from popular romance author Qiong Yao’s novel. They also played the leading roles in the urban romance series “Ode to Joy 2” （2016). Deng Lun made his film in the fantasy “The Yin-Yang Master”(Qing Ya Ji), which was released during the recent Lunar New Year holiday and has been acquired by Netflix from Huayi Brothers Media.
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4. REN Jialun (actor)
A singer who doesn’t know how to play tennis isn’t a good actor. That’s a joke, but it also sums up Ren Jialun’s experience. Born in 1989, Ren was previously a professional tennis player who trained with Olympic athletes, but he quit the sport due to injuries. He participated in Hunan TV’s singing competition“Super Boy” before turning to acting in 2016, debuting in the xianxia series “Nobel Aspirations” (Qing Yun Zhi), with Li Yifeng played the leading role. Ren’s fame grew with the 2017 historical drama series “The Glory of Tang Dynasty,” in which he played the passionate King of Quang Binh. He starred in several costume dramas over the following years, including “The Destiny of White Snake,” an adaptation of a Chinese legend. His latest work is the costume fantasy drama “The Blue Whisper,” co-starring the popular actress Dilraba and planned for a 2022 release.
Recommended Reading: Five Fun Facts About “Under the Power” Actor Allen Ren, Hotpot TV
3. ZHU Yilong (actor)
Zhu Yilong first gained mainstream recognition for the romance drama “Love For Three Lifetimes” (2014) set during the Republican period (1912-1949). He played the head of a wealthy family and sang the series theme song “Heng Xing” as well. The performance won him the “Most Anticipated Actor Award” at the Asian Influence Awards Oriental Ceremony later that year. In 2018, Zhu starred in the fantasy web drama “Guardian,” playing three characters with very different personalities: a soft-spoken professor, a boss who only appears at night, and a daunting antagonist. The series brought him more attention, and Zhu won the popular actor award at the 2018 Weibo Movie Awards Ceremony. Last year, Zhu played the leading role in the web series “Reunion: The Sound of Providence,” a story about tomb raiders. The series’ premier has topped the charts on iQiyi.
Recommended Reading: Why Made in China Won The Spring Festival Gala, Jing Daily
2. WANG Yibo (actor/ singer/ dancer)
Wang Yibo was one of the most popular actors in China in 2020. He was recently appointed by the Chinese government as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics ambassador. Like many other actors on the list, Wang has solid singing and dancing skills. He made his debut in the entertainment industry in 2014 as a member of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Uniq and is fluent in both Chinese and Korean. Before his breakout role on the historical xianxia drama series “The Untamed” in 2019, Wang had been a TV host on the variety show “Day Day Up” since 2016. He also participated in the popular idol competition “Produce 101” as a dance mentor in 2018 and on “Street Dance of China 3” as a team captain, making an impression on the audiences with his dance style. Wang was awarded “Hot Figure of the Year” for two consecutive years at the most recent Weibo Awards Ceremony and won “Douyin God” and “All-Around Artist of the Year” at Douyin Night 2021.
Recommended Reading: Wang Yibo Brings a Sparkle to Global Brands, Content Commerce Insider
1. XIAO Zhan (actor)
Xiao Zhan (Sean Xiao) has long been in the top three of the “Star Power List.” His name frequently appears on Weibo’s trending topics charts, and his face can be encountered on posters at Chinese shopping malls and even on billboards around Chinatowns overseas. With an appearance that ranked first in the 2019 TCCAsia’s Most Handsome Faces in Asia list, Xiao has attracted many fervent fans around the world. Like Wang Yibo, Xiao also got his start as part of a boy band, in his case Chinese group X Nine. In 2016 he appeared in the online fantasy drama “Super Star Academy” in the leading role. In the following years, he appeared in several other streaming series, including Tencent Video’s historical romance comedy “Oh! My Emperor” (2018) and “The Wolf” (2020). He became more widely known for his co-starring role alongside Wang Yibo in “The Untamed,” which also got picked up by Netflix, leading to a surge in Xiao’s global recognition. As a singer, Xiao April 2020 single “Spot Light” saw a sales volume of 25.48 million, and set a Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling digital album within 24 hours of release.
Recommended Reading: The Dark Side of China’s Idol Economies, Jing Daily
Sources from Wikipedia, Baidu, maigoo and MyDreamList.