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What’s Hot on Wechat: ‘Web red’ of 2016 se­cures $1.84 mil­lion in­vest­ment

The news of an In­ter­net star se­cur­ing a joint in­vest­ment of 12 mil­lion yuan ($1.84 mil­lion) has trig­gered heated dis­cus­sion on­line, shap­ing new per­spec­tives to­wards the ‘web red’ econ­omy of today’s cy­ber-mad world.

29-year-old Shanghai na­tive Jiang Yilei, known by her fans as pa­pi酱 and who holds a de­gree in Di­rect­ing from the Cen­tral Academy of Drama, shot to fame after sharing a hi­lar­i­ous short video on a pop­u­lar video stream­ing plat­form ear­lier this year. Be­fore that, the girl had been gar­ner­ing a loyal fol­low­ing in cy­berspace thanks to her stun­ning per­form­ing tal­ents and wicked sense of hu­mour, as demon­strated in a se­ries of orig­i­nal and funny short videos shared on­line since Oc­to­ber in 2015.

Jiang’s on­line de­but, that show­cased her sig­na­ture sar­casm and ac­cu­rate grasp of Chi­nese ur­ban hypocrisy, caught the at­ten­tion of the coun­try’s vig­i­lant ne­ti­zens at the be­gin­ning of 2015, when she worked with a former col­lege class­mate to post short videos on Sina Weibo. In most of her videos, she takes mul­ti­ple roles as director, scriptwriter, ac­tress, cam­era­man and editor, with every cre­ation end­ing with the catch­line "I'm Papi Jiang, the com­bi­na­tion of beauty and tal­ent."

Her most ac­claimed videos in­clude one that is ti­tled Are you ready for the up­com­ing Spring Fes­ti­val, a se­ries of videos mim­ick­ing a north China girl try­ing to speak in the coax­ing Tai­wan style, and a cy­cle of works about how Shanghai white-col­lar office ladies are ob­sessed with show­ing off their English skills to­gether with the Shanghai di­alect in daily con­ver­sa­tions. Spring Fes­ti­val, a side-split­ting mono­logue that touches on the heart­break of China’s ‘left­over’ women who are put through their paces each year by nosey fam­ily mem­bers, be­came an in­stant hit in the wake of the Spring Fes­ti­val break. In less than six months, Papi Jiang’s fans rose to a whop­ping 8 mil­lion on her Weibo ac­count, and her videos have been watched at least 100 mil­lion times on var­i­ous video sharing web­sites. She launched her de­but on WeChat in Septem­ber of 2015. A post ti­tled ‘WeChat drives me crazy’, pub­lished on Jan­uary 18, 2016, drew more than 70 mil­lion ‘likes’ from China’s ‘WeChat com­mu­nity’.

The On­line Celebrity List 2015, re­leased by China In­ter­net Weekly in early March, ranks Papi Jiang sec­ond only to Wang Si­cong, son of Wang Jian­lin, China's rich­est man and chair­man of main­land prop­erty and en­ter­tain­ment con­glom­er­ate Wanda Group.

How­ever, the sen­sa­tion was fol­lowed only weeks later by an of­fi­cial re­quest by the coun­try’s watch­dog that the videos con­tain­ing “swear words and in­sult­ing lan­guage” be taken down.

It is es­ti­mated that there are more than 1 mil­lion In­ter­net celebri­ties, or ‘wang hong’, in China. Many of these ‘web reds’ went vi­ral by mak­ing and sharing par­ody-style and whim­si­cal (or non­sense) live videos.

Jiang’s on­line de­but, that show­cased her sig­na­ture sar­casm on Chi­nese ur­ban hypocrisy, caught the at­ten­tion of the coun­try’s vig­i­lant ne­ti­zens at the be­gin­ning of 2015.

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