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Communist Youth League Removes Virtual Idol Project After Feminist Criticism

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The Communist Youth League, China’s Party-backed young people’s association, has had to hurriedly backtrack on its latest attempt to engage with Gen-Z after its teasing of two new “VTuber” virtual idols faced open ridicule and scorn online.

In a now deleted post on Chinese microblogging site Weibo on Monday, the Communist Youth League attempted to build excitement around a pair of virtual influencers by teasing their silhouettes with the words, “New Vtubers are coming soon.” Within hours, the post had attracted tens of thousands of comments, while related hashtags using the pair’s names effectively became a virtual space for people to vent on misogyny and make outright political points.

Seemingly taken aback by the reactions, the Communist Youth League removed its post and the idols’ official Weibo handle, plus the related channel on anime streaming platform Bilibili that it appeared was set to be their home. But that didn’t stem the flood of commentary.

communist youth league anime

A screenshot from a Bilibili video entitled “The Fastest Virtual Idol Flops

Many of the comments centered on the female figure, Jiang Shanjiao, who together with her male counterpart Hong Qiman was named after lines in a poem penned by Mao Zedong. Her name can be interpreted as meaning “The Beautiful Land,” which Mao used as a reference to China.

“Does your husband beat you? And will the police care about it?” asked one comment on the original post, according to widely-circulated screenshots. More questions followed, highlighting some of the queries many women in China have to face: “Will you have to marry before you’re 30?” “Will you have to give birth to a boy?” and “People are just joking Jiang Shanjiao — are you too sensitive or something?” among them.

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Others used the comment party as a way to highlight recent issues related to China’s battle with the novel coronavirus Covid-19, with one asking whether Jiang was “able” and would “understand” — a reference to Dr Li Wenliang’s treatment — and another asking if she’d be forced to shave her head, following rumors online (since denied) that female medical professionals in Hubei were being made to get rid of their hair when treating coronavirus patients.

This is far from the first time the Youth League has attempted to jump on established youth culture trends to indoctrinate a new generation. They’re known to be big fans of “red rap” group CD Rev and have lavished real life video host Li Ziqi with praise for her idyllic videos of rural life.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.