The Chinese Communist Youth League has co-opted a popular hologram pop singer as its “youth ambassador,” noting that fictional holographic pop stars are “pure as lilies” and easier to manage than people, who “make their own decisions” and may choose at any moment to contradict the Chinese government.
The Global Times published an extensive feature on Luo Tianyi, a “pop star” hologram who has become so popular that millions of people have bought tickets to watch her perform live. Erciyuan, as the virtual pop stars are called, have become increasingly popular both in China and their native Japan.
The state-run Global Times notes that the Chinese government finds erciyuan politically useful because, unlike humans, they have no free will and can be easily controlled.
“Indeed, virtual icons like Luo Tianyi could cause zero harm to youngsters as they won’t yield to any temptation like drugs or get involved in any sex scandals,” the Times explains. “In recent years, a number of popular human celebrities were found to be drug users or sex addicts. It’s also not uncommon to find stars falling from the public’s worshiping altar after making an ethnical mistake.”
One of Luo Tianyi’s developers, Ren Li, tells the Global Times that a benefit to Luo over a human pop star is that she and other “virtual idols” are “easier to manage, different from real-life stars who make their own decisions and do things the way they like, which is hard to control.”
Luo Tianyi performs many crowdsourced songs, all of a bubblegum pop variety that largely appeals to teens and young people. She has filled stadiums throughout China with fans excited to watch her perform.
Before becoming a “youth ambassador” for the Communist Party, Luo also starred in ads for companies like KFC.
Now, the Global Times reports, Luo will help “instill correct thinking into the younger generation with her singing.”
Cao Pu, the head of the company responsible for Luo, Thstars, says the company will “embed hot societal topics and positive values into her songs and spread them to younger generations.”
The heavy promotion of Luo Tianyi in a state newspaper signals a major shift from where Xi Jinping’s autocracy stood on the matter of holograms as recently as this June, when Beijing began heavily regulating the presence of holographic pop stars on social media. That month, the Economist reported, the government shut down video and audio streaming of a Luo concert broadcast live on the internet and demanded that social media outlets register for proper “licensing” in order to broadcast such content.
Yet, as the Global Times noted in November, the animated pop star industry “reached a gross output of 87 billion yuan ($13 billion) in 2013, and reached as much as 100 billion yuan in 2014.” The lucrative nature of the art appears to have triggered a decision by the Communist Party to hijack it and use the holograms to spread political propaganda.
China’s communists have grown increasingly concerned about how little interest young Chinese people seem to have in Marxism, particularly those exposed to capitalist technology and popular American culture. In response, Xi has commissioned a number of propaganda videos to make communism “cool” for young people, including the 2016 rap video “Marx is a Millennial” and state-commissioned hip-hop track “The Reform Group is Two Years Old.”
Chinese communists also released a song urging Chinese women to marry “a man like Uncle Xi.”
The Chinese Communist Youth League also launched a series of dating events in July to ensure that dedicated party members did not end up falling in love with anyone who could taint their ideological purity.