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Indenturing Celebrity: Governing China’s Entertainment Industries
journal contributionposted on 2023-01-25, 03:00 authored by Elaine Jeffreys, Jian XuJian Xu
This article examines the governance of China’s entertainment industries using the concept of “indentured celebrities”—famous people who are obliged to serve as ambassadors for Chinese government advertising and public diplomacy. The article introduces the idea of indentured celebrities in relation to Western sociological understandings of major celebrities as “national power elites,” “powerless elites,” and cosmopolitan “Big Citizens” who use their mediatized star power to exert unelected, “stateless” political influence. It then examines the expansion since the mid-2000s of regulatory controls over China’s entertainment industries. Finally, it explores the “Fan Bingbing tax evasion case,” revealing how online public censure, and the associated potential for government action, can coalesce to discipline celebrity behaviors. We conclude that regulatory frameworks and, to a lesser degree, “supervision by public opinion,” indenture major celebrities to aid the ruling Chinese Communist Party, while undermining any scope to exert nongovernmental political influence as per Western celebrities.