Jiayang Fan on beauty in China


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Jiayang Fan is a staff writer at the New Yorker who writes on many topics, but in the past year, has penned several one-of-a-kind pieces on Chinese society. She has been on Sinica before to discuss why so many Chinese people admire Donald Trump.

Her most recent piece for the magazine is titled “China’s selfie obsession,” and is a fascinating look at a company called Meitu (美图 měitú; “beautiful picture”), an app and mobile phone producer that is now responsible, it is estimated, for the editing more than half of China’s selfies. So many mobile phone users — including users of Meitu’s own branded phones — have used Meitu’s apps to enhance their self-portraits that the company is now worth $6 billion.

But what does the intense obsession with beauty, and the way that young people share beautified pictures online, say about changing values in China? How does this relate to internet celebrity (网红 wǎnghóng) in the country and obsessions over teen male stars (小鲜肉 xiǎoxiānròu; literally, “fresh young meat”)? What redeeming qualities of these phenomena can be found, and why are they especially prevalent in China?

Jeremy and Kaiser sat down with Jiayang at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business’s New York campus to discuss these topics. They also discuss Jiayang’s piece from earlier this year titled “China’s mistress-dispellers,” a rare inside look at the booming business of sabotaging the exploits of unfaithful husbands, and what it means for matrimony in the Middle Kingdom.


Jeremy: Buying a DJI Phantom 4 drone.

Jiayang: Using white pepper in recipes, particularly for hearty soups. She says it’s a bit spicier than black pepper, but “fruitier” and “a lot more complex” — contrary to what the internet says.

Kaiser: The article “Where millennials come from,” by Jia Tolentino of the New Yorker. It’s about millennials from a millennial perspective, and skewers some of the common media myths about the generation, while also identifying what the author thinks is actually worth criticizing. And

Chinese Warlord: The Career of Feng Yu-Hsiang, by James E. Sheridan, about an interesting general from the Warlord Era whom Kaiser’s maternal grandfather worked for as a diplomatic adviser.

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