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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 low-level government officials and Party cadres undertook a monthslong experiment in livestreaming and social commerce. These sectors are among the most dynamic in the Chinese internet economy and cultures, 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 cadres understood and performed internet celebrity through in-person semi-structured interviews and a three month virtual ethnographic study. 在 2020 年,中国的县长书记进行了长达数月的实验性直播带货。随着"直播带货"成 为中国互联网经济与文化最活力的发展领域之一,一方面中国大多官员对流行文化与 名人效应持抵制态度,另一方面中国政府和机构也在信息数字化方面不断拓展与革新。 然而,为什么大批官员进行此项实验? 最直接原因在于官员们想帮助那些受新冠疫情 影响的本地生产商们提高销售成绩,并达成扶贫要求的指标。可是,更深远的意义在 于反映了中国共产党以及中央政府在网红和自媒体发展时代,重塑对政治传播的实践认知,同时也体现了地方官员在数字和流行传播方面的创新和试验。通过面对面半结构化访谈和为期三个月的网络民族志研究,本研究调查了中国领导干部对网红的理解和表现,通过实证研究探讨了他们在地方层面直播带货的开展成效。


Sullivan, J., Zhao, Y., & Wang, W. (in press). China’s livestreaming local officials: An experiment in popular digital communications. China Quarterly,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Print ISSN 0305-7410
Electronic ISSN 1468-2648
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL