A content creator is drawing back the curtain on how Chinese influencers are partaking in “trending” American culture and pretending they’re in the U.S. — while being on an entirely different continent.
Dr. Candise Lin (@candiselin86), a cultural commentator and Cantonese/Mandarin tutor with more than 1.3 million TikTok followers, shared a video discussing the artful ways in which “Chinese girls pretend they are in the U.S.” and the revelations are surprising.
“How do Chinese girls pretend they are in the U.S.,” Lin begins. “They take pictures on this commercial street in a housing community in the city of Changsha.” Changsha is the capital of China’s Hunan province.
“Netizens on Xiaohongshu called this ‘American street style,'” she continues. “The entire street is only the length of a swimming pool, but it’s decorated with things that Chinese think of America.” These supposedly American things include a bus station, “street signs written in English,” signs for fast food restaurants and graffiti.
Also, Xiaohongshu, for those unfamiliar, is a social media platform that’s recognized as “China’s answer to Instagram.”
Fascination with the western world isn’t exactly new. In fact, IKEA China allegedly banned influencers from posing in front of store lockers to emulate American high schools. Similarly, Chinese influencers have also been known to pose outside of Costco in an effort to make it seem as though they’re actually in Los Angeles, Calif. “American farm style” also made its rounds on social media in late 2022.
So why the fascination with western culture?
The influence of western culture on Chinese youth is pervasive. Yang Gao, a sociologist at Singapore Management University, suggests that American television, in particular, is “massively popular among young Chinese for its authenticity.”
“This fascination is coinciding with the rise of the new ‘golden age’ of quality television in America, with complex characters and unconventional storytelling,” Gao told Eric Fish of Foreign Policy. “By comparison, Chinese TV can feel uninspired with relatively predictable plotlines and unambiguous characters. Heroes are heroes and villains are villains.”
Gao also found that traditionally American themes of “spontaneity, nonconformity, and self-realization resonated with young Chinese fans of American television.” The television drama Boston Legal, for example, influenced one of Gao’s subjects, a 21-year-old undergraduate student, to pursue a career in law.
“Some netizens aren’t very familiar with U.S. geography,” Lin continues. The caption of an influencer’s social media post, according to Lin, says “checking in at the Manhattan district even though there aren’t any high rise office buildings in sight.” The same caption also says “finally came to Los Angeles in Changsha,” which Lin argues is indicative of the fact that some content creators “can’t make up their mind whether this place gives a New York or California vibe.”
“They are just fronts telling the posers to ‘don’t crazy, don’t happy,” Lin says of the English-language storefronts and signage on the aforementioned commercial street.
While it’s not necessarily confirmed, it’s then possible that Chinese influencers have taken a liking to American culture because it’s so disparate from their own. In addition to the American inclination to challenge authority and promote ideas of individualism, it seems Chinese nationals have a sort of rose-tinted perception of many things American. Famous cities like Los Angeles and New York, for example, are where these influencers aspire to live. Being regarded as a resident of a bustling, aesthetically recognized major American city is somewhat of a dream they could only hope comes true.
“I will never get over how American Core is a real thing”
Commenters, presumably ones with U.S. citizenship, are surprised that American culture is as sought-after as it is. “American Core,” one user notes, is perplexing as a desired aesthetic.
“Honestly it doesn’t look like either new york or Los Angeles,” @bunnyzaychik said.
“I will never get over how American Core is a real thing,” @ali.londy admitted.
“Too clean for American street,” @automatedresponsebot shared.
“It’s interesting how some ppl here have ‘Japan core’ or ‘chinese core’ and then there theres ‘American core,’ @elys_iqn added.
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