Call Me GBA Brothers: The Evolution of a Political Neologism through Reality Television and Social Media

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


This study investigates the evolution and implications of the "Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macau Greater Bay Area" (GBA) initiative introduced by the Chinese government in 2015, focusing on its discourse in popular culture. Despite being officially introduced, the term "GBA" gained prominence only after the broadcast of the mainland Chinese reality show "Call Me By Fire" in 2021. Produced by Mango TV, a media company under the state-owned Hunan Broadcasting System, the show quickly garnered attention on China's Sina Weibo social media platform, resulting in its widespread adoption by users. Notably, the show prominently featured a group of Hong Kong male celebrities known as the "GBA brothers," who became the focal point of public interest. By employing critical discourse analysis to examine the posts on Sina Weibo, this research investigates the usage and significance of the term within Mainland China, examining how provincial broadcasting institutions, local government tourism departments, and prominent Chinese IT giants collaborate to influence ordinary media users, including reality TV show audiences and social media users, aligning with the political agenda of the Chinese central government through entertainment and popular culture. Furthermore, the study aims to unravel the paradox surrounding the term's popularity. Initially intended to facilitate Hong Kong's integration with mainland China in economic, social, and political aspects, the analysis of social media users' posts reveals a different motivation. Their affinity for the "GBA brothers" stems from their recognition and appreciation of Hong Kong's unique cultural identity, rooted in the Cantonese language, Hong Kong pop music, and genre movies of the 1990s. This paradox highlights the complex dynamics involved in integrating distinct cultural and regional entities, shedding light on how popular culture from specific moments intertwines and clashes with new popular culture due to the diverse ideologies they represents
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2023
Event11th International Qualitative Research Conference (2023): Positioning Critical Lenses in Qualitative Research - Double Tree by Hilton Putrajaya Lakeside, Putrajaya, Malaysia
Duration: 24 Nov 202325 Nov 2023 (Conference website) (Conference's E-program book)


Conference11th International Qualitative Research Conference (2023)
Abbreviated titleIQRC 2023
OtherResearch methodologies of qualitative inquiry have continued to evolve because of its self-perpetuating critical evaluation to arrive at authentic and trustworthy representations of participants’ voices. This is necessary for qualitative research methodology to stay relevant as a research paradigm especially as contexts surrounding its social actors are in constant flux. Qualitative researchers need to take with them the principles underpinning axiology and fully acknowledge the paradigms of knowledge construction in their findings. Only then, can they fulfil their responsibility of connecting participants’ voices to relevant stakeholders in society. Therefore, to further understand our complex society, qualitative researchers require new perspectives to constantly challenge norms and familiar thinking. In the 11th International Qualitative Research Conference (2023), a re-emphasis on the importance of critical examination of qualitative methodologies will be placed front and centre. Questions about how qualitative researchers should position critical lenses in everchanging human contexts will be raised and discussed. With this critical evaluation, we hope to position qualitative research in its rightful place in scientific discourse so as to contribute to a just and balanced society.
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User-Defined Keywords

  • Greater Bay Area
  • popular culture
  • discourse
  • reality television
  • social media


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