Arts and Culture
This paper sets out to examine how the new digital media contribute to the rise of a new social phenomenon—women cultural entrepreneurs—while changing gender roles in a globalising China (1997-present). This study examines how China’s new women cultural entrepreneurs—including Internet author Anni Baobei (b. 1974), video artist Cao Fei (b. 1978) and documentary film-maker Chai Jing (b. 1976)— invent themselves as ‘consumption celebrities’ in Guy Debord’s (1992) sense of the word—whose personae epitomise the many facets of consumer culture. Working within the current political system of consultative Leninism, they use the new digital and social media for marketing, self-fashioning, activism and communicating with their target audiences. China’s Internet population reached 802 million netizens in 2018 with a 57.7% penetration rate (CNNIC 2018), providing Chinese citizens with new avenues to communicate through non-official channels. This study analyses first, how China’s new women cultural entrepreneurs fashion themselves as a new type of celebrity; and second, how their works create a media spectacle. This media spectacle exists on three levels: first, as the public spectacle of female self-fashioning, casting the new woman cultural entrepreneur as a media celebrity; second, as a literary or artistic reflection on China’s economic reforms and globalisation; and third, as the epitome of the social rise of China’s new cultural entrepreneurs. This paper aims to contribute to our understanding of the cultural and social negotiations surrounding the rise of the new women cultural entrepreneurs in China’s mediasphere.