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The ABCs of Chinese Pop: Wang Leehom and the Marketing of a Global Chinese Celebrity

Abstract

How did singer Wang Leehom, a Chinese American raised in the suburbs of New York, end up becoming one of the industry heavyweights of Mandopop (Mandarin-language pop music)? This essay uses Wang as a case study to investigate how discourses of race, market, and belonging are reworked in global contexts. Drawing on Sau-ling Wong’s theoretical insights on transnational processes of race, citizenship, and belonging, it argues that Wang capitalizes on a fluid dynamic of sameness and difference to appeal to a heterogeneous Chinese-speaking audience that stretches across China to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and the greater Chinese diaspora. Through an examination of the racial and national contexts that frame Wang’s participation in Mandopop, this essay analyzes the particular calibrations of Chineseness that emerge from the singer’s music and public image and the imperfect translation of identities such as Chinese American, Chinese diasporic, and Chinese across diverse linguistic and national communities.

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