Manufacturing and Commodifying “Chineseness”

Zhen Troy Chen, Thomas William Whyke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


With the proliferation of cultural and creative industries in China, the Internet Plus economy has turned millions of young people Chinese into entrepreneurial and digital prosumers. In tandem, multi-channel network has become a new business model to scout, train, package and promote online micro-celebrities into ‘natural and authentic’ spokespersons for self-branded products and services, who also play an important role in shaping national and cultural identities. Amid the emergent convergence of e-commerce and social commerce, Li Ziqi, an influential food-vlogger and YouTube celebrity, has attracted unprecedented fame online, at home and abroad. This chapter focuses on Li’s digital media and discourses to understand how “Chineseness” is manufactured and commodified. Informed by celebrity studies, this chapter critically assesses the stories told and the images created by Li Ziqi on YouTube to an international audience. Using Lévi-Strauss’ concept of ‘mytheme’, this chapter argues that to build a positive image of China overseas, Li’s auto-stereotyping and (self-)orientalist portrayal of rural China has created a myth of Chineseness by (re)constructing a ‘fantasy’ and ‘desirable mythology’ of an idyllic rural China. The findings of this chapter contribute to the ongoing scholarly discussions on how China engages with the globalized world through cultural diplomacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChina's International Communication and Relationship Building
EditorsXiaoling Zhang, Corey Schultz
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003254157
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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