Cybernationalist authoritarianism: Fangirls’ peer production of the virtual celebrity ‘Oppa China’

Matthew Ming-tak Chew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This study has two research objectives. The first is to analyse a case of Chinese ‘cybernationalist authoritarianism’, which I define as the ideological articulation and practical conjoining of cybernationalism and digital authoritarianism. This intriguing case involves the peer production of a virtual celebrity called ‘Oppa China’ (阿中哥哥) by fangirls (饭圈女孩) in China. The empirical analysis contributes to ongoing debates on whether cybernationalists mainly serve or undermine authoritarianism in China. My second objective is to theoretically explore the rising phenomenon of cybernationalist authoritarianism. This exploration contributes to studies on the contemporary transformation of nationalism and authoritarianism. I approach the two objectives by analysing cybernationalist authoritarianism in terms of the interplay between cybernationalism and digital authoritarianism. I find that peer production is the key novel characteristic of cybernationalism and that authoritarian legitimation is the main imperative of digital authoritarianism. My analysis illustrates how the peer production of new and multiple cybernationalisms serves as well as undermines authoritarian legitimation. This study’s data include in-depth interviews, informal interviews, various documentary sources, big data from Weibo, and online participant observation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-99
Number of pages25
JournalChina Information
Issue number1
Early online date13 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • cybernationalism
  • digital authoritarianism
  • peer production
  • authoritarian legitimation
  • Chinese social media
  • virtual celebrity


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