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Everything you need to know about Jay Chou’s unexpected rise on Chinese social media

It’s not just about the numbers

Photograph: @jaychou via Instagram
Chinese social media platform Weibo has witnessed a fierce ‘battle’ coming to an end between the fans of Jay Chou, the enormously popular Taiwanese singer-songwriter and those of Cai Xukun, a 21-year-old talent who obtained huge popularity from the talent show Idol Producer aired online last year.

The drama started from a now-deleted comment posted on Tue 16 on Douban – a Chinese social networking site about film, music and books – that questioned Chou's popularity. ‘Chou’s presence on social media is low, yet his concert tickets are really hard to get,’ said the commentator. ‘Does he really have that many fans?’

The comment struck a nerve with Chou’s massive fan base, who decided to show their support by bumping their idol to the top ranking on Weibo Super Topic (超话), a feature that allows users to create a group where certain hashtags can be seen only by its members. The more mentions a Super Topic gets, the higher it automatically appears on rankings.

Within 24 hours after the Douban comment, the Super Topic about Chou jumped from about the 100th spot to the 30th, according to Chinanews. This super-fast surge on rankings threatened Cai Xukun fans, who have kept their idol at number one for 64 consecutive weeks. Unwilling to lose the battle, Cai fans (who are largely members of Gen Z) geared up for a battle against Chou fans, who were mostly born in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Last weekend, Chou’s ranking exceeded Xu and remained top until the last time we checked.

The nation-wide frenzy was regarded on the Chinese internet as a cross-generational clash over music taste, idol culture and social media fluency. Not having a Weibo account, the 40-year-old singer didn’t get personally involved. Chou is one of the most popular pop stars in the Chinese-speaking world, whose influence on Chinese pop culture has been immense, though he’s slowed down his work after getting married in 2015. By contrast, Cai's official fan Weibo posted that it will stop participating in any activities like this in the future after the ‘defeat’ on Mon 22.

Chou is currently preparing for a new world tour to mark his 20th anniversary in the business. The very first show is confirmed to take place in Shanghai this October, according to Sina.