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2020-08-18 07:53:21

Two Chinese internet celebrities were honored last week in an unexpected way: Vlogger Li Ziqi and livestreamer Huang Wei — better known by her online handle Wei Ya — were both nominated as members of the All-China Youth Federation.

Backed by the Communist Party, the All-China Youth Federation aims to be a cross-section of the country’s young or young-ish generation, organizing programs in education, vocational training, rural development, environmental protection, international exchange, civil society, and youth culture.

Founded in 1949, the organization’s members have included prominent political figures including Hu Jintao, Li Keqiang, and Peng Liyuan — China’s last president, current premier, and current first lady, respectively. In remarks on Monday, Xi Jinping said the ACYF should “make new contributions to the development of the party and the country.”

According to the organization’s charter, “nominated” or “invited” members should be representative of young people from different ethnic groups and all walks of life, be influential among young people, be younger than 40, and “actively practice core socialist values.”

With 39 million followers on Douyin — as TikTok is branded in China — vlogger Li is the more popular of the pair, having cultivated a strong international fan base with her videos of humble village life. Meanwhile, Huang, who has 13 million Douyin followers, is best-known for commercial livestreaming, promoting everything from food and makeup to million-dollar space rockets to an audience of live viewers.

News of the internet celebrities’ official appointments has received mixed reviews on Chinese social media. While supporters have argued that Li and Huang are deserving of the honor, having “used their influence to do charity work” and “spread traditional Chinese culture,” opponents have questioned their qualifications.

“It’s a tragedy of our society that internet celebrities dominate everything,” one user on microblogging platform Weibo commented under a related media post.

The ACYF only adds new members every five years. Although the full list of the 2020 cohort of 1,375 members has not been released to the public, the ACYF said that over half of the new appointees are not Communist Party members, and 17.2% belong to one of China’s 55 ethnic minority groups.

While Huang and Li being added to the ranks of a party-affiliated, semi-political organization has made headlines in China, the ACYF also invited people from myriad other fields and professions.

In June, the ACYF raised eyebrows when it was revealed that the founder of College Daily — a WeChat account popular among ethnic Chinese in the U.S. that was temporarily suspended last year over vulgar clickbait — was among this year’s nominated members, though it’s unclear whether he was ultimately confirmed. Also among the list are employees of China’s largest internet companies, including Alibaba, ByteDance, and Bilibili.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Pastoral life vlogger Li Ziqi (right) and commercial livestreamer Wei Ya. From People Visual and @李子柒 on Weibo)