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China's Livestreaming Local Officials: An Experiment in Popular Digital Communications

Sullivan, Jonathan; Zhao, Yupei; Wang, Weixiang


Yupei Zhao

Weixiang Wang


In 2020, hundreds of sub-national government officials and Chinese Communist Party cadres undertook a months-long experiment in livestreaming and social commerce. These sectors are among the most dynamic in the Chinese internet economy and culture, yet Chinese officials have generally resisted engaging with popular and celebrity cultures, even as institutions have begun to expand and modernize their digital operations. Why, then, did a substantial cohort of local officials undertake this experiment? The proximate reason was that they wanted to help local producers hit by the pandemic and to meet their own pending poverty alleviation targets. However, the significance of the case is broader, reflecting the central state and Party s revised thinking on political communications in an era of internet celebrity and self-media and the propensity for local officials to innovate and experiment in the field of digital and popular communication. Investigating empirically how and how effectively livestreaming was employed at the local level helps us to illuminate these dynamics. To facilitate the study, we investigated how officials understood and performed internet celebrity through in-person semi-structured interviews and a three-month virtual ethnographic study.


Sullivan, J., Zhao, Y., & Wang, W. (2023). China's Livestreaming Local Officials: An Experiment in Popular Digital Communications. China Quarterly, 256, 1036-1052.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2022
Online Publication Date May 16, 2023
Publication Date 2023-12
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 16, 2023
Journal The China Quarterly
Print ISSN 0305-7410
Electronic ISSN 1468-2648
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 256
Pages 1036-1052
Keywords Political Science and International Relations, Development, Geography, Planning and Development
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