In China, celebrities can dominate public discourse and shape popular culture, but they are under the state’s close gaze. Recent studies have revealed how the state disciplines and co-opts celebrities to promote patriotism, foster traditional values, and spread political propaganda. However, how do celebrities adapt to the changing political environment? Focusing on political signaling on Weibo, we analyze a novel dataset and find that the vast majority of top celebrities repost from official accounts of government agencies and state media outlets, though there are variations. Younger celebrities with more followers tend to repost from official accounts more. Celebrities from Taiwan tend to repost less than those from the mainland and Hong Kong, despite being subject to the same rules. However, the frequent political signaling by the most influential celebrities among younger generations suggests that the state has co-opted celebrity influence on social media to broadly promote its political objectives.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of SOAS University of London