"There has to be someone to speak up": Participatory Mashup as a Symbolic Resistance in China

Fan Xiao

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


The COVID-19 outbreak has challenged the effectiveness of China’s state apparatus and accumulated much social discontent in the first half of 2020. Aided by the creative adaptation of an Internet meme, a group of Chinese feminists initiated a short-term movement in the Chinese Internet against the introduction of two virtual representative of the Chinese Communist Youth League – Jiangshanjiao and Hongqiman. This movement delivered a powerful counterpublic discourse of women sufferings in modern China, which is widely resonated with its participants. Adapting Shifman’s (2014) cultural perspective of Internet memes, this study closely examined how a once apolitical mashup video became viral and political Internet memes. Three strategies were revealed: 1) apply subversive reading of the protagonist; 2) use shared experiences to connect with the audience; 3) channel anger to call for actions. By studying the politicization of Internet memes, this article argues that the participatory mashup culture popular among youth has the critical potential to articulate counterpublic discourses that are more nuanced and relatable to its audience.


Conference71st Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2021
Internet address

User-Defined Keywords

  • digital activism
  • Memes
  • feminism
  • counterpublic


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