How China’s Star Ship Troopers Are Redefining Modern Fandom

Highly organized “fan circles” are altering the modern entertainment landscape.

Earlier this month, China’s fangirls took a break from worshipping their favorite “little fresh meat” stars to stan a different kind of idol: Ah Zhong gege, or “Brother China.” Declaring allegiance to their country, they organized themselves into teams and flooded popular Western social networking sites like Instagram and Facebook with positive messages, downvoting negative comments.

This social media army didn’t spring out of nowhere. Participants and organizers drew on years of experience in the trenches of China’s cutthroat world of idol fandom, where social media traffic and rankings — measured in comments, reposts, and likes — are everything.

In mid-July, millennial fans of 40-year-old Taiwanese superstar singer Jay Chou made headlines for a concerted campaign that toppled 21-year-old idol Cai Xukun from the top of microblogging platform Weibo’s “super topics” rankings. It was a victory for Chou, but Cai’s Generation Z fans — who had kept their idol at the top of the social media charts for 64 straight weeks — quickly regained control. At time of publication, Cai was back to number one on the super topics list with 7.6 million posts, almost 5 million fans, and close to 1.3 billion page views.

Memes made by fans of Cai Xukun (left) and Jay Chou. From Weibo

China’s contemporary rankings-focused fandom culture can be traced back to the 2005 televised singing contest “Super Girl,” which allowed viewers to vote for their favorite contestants. It has skyrocketed in the ensuing years, thanks to better technology and the influence of Korean and Japanese fan culture.

Today, fandom is defined by so-called “fan circles,” or fanquan. Primarily — though by no means exclusively — composed of young women, membership in a fan circle isn’t simply about liking a star: For many, it’s a vocation. Continue to read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.