With a language barrier, cultural differences and a distance of just over 7,000 miles, the USA and China are effectively worlds apart. But there is one surprising thing these two superpowers have in common: their teenage girls love Justin Bieber.

The Canadian heartthrob’s current world tour took him to China where he gyrated along the Great Wall for his latest music video. Despite his notorious behavioural scandals, hoards of screaming girls queued up to see the 19-year-old, whose sell-out concert fetched up to £800 for VIP tickets. China’s live music scene seems to be growing fast, accelerated by Western stars influencing the tastes of its younger generation.

The Biebz is not the only Western artist taking China by storm. Earlier this year, tickets to a Metallica concert sold out in six minutes flat. Bands including The Clash and The Cure are said to have had a big impact on the country’s alternative rock scene, whilst other Western artists inspire Chinese pop music, also known as ‘C-Pop’. So, what is making a country with a different culture, language and set of customs so excited over Western pop culture? The answer lies within the power of the Internet.

In a country of 1.3 billion people, it isn’t surprising that China boasts the world’s largest Internet population. Although it is somewhat censored in the country, access to Western content through social networking sites such as RenRen, Sina Weibo and Youko Toudo (China’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube counterparts), is already having a large influence on China’s youth culture. Using these three websites, a study by Forbes found that the top 25 most influential celebrities in China included Justin Bieber, Adele, David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Kristen Stewart.

So, it isn’t just music that’s taking China by storm. Hollywood has had a strong impact on the Chinese movie industry for a while, inspiring movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and making stars out of actors like Jackie Chan. Western movies also attract viewers in greater numbers than locally produced features. In fact, Harry Potter and Finding Nemo are favourites amongst the Chinese youth.

Western influence in China also leaks into its fashion industry with American brands Adidas and Nike dominating the Chinese sneaker market. Did you know Beijing now has its own fashion week, which is attended by international designers?

It is argued that the impact of Western media has contributed to China taking an interest in relaxing censorship laws. China has just approved plans to lift a 13-year ban on the sale of video games consoles and Western video games in the region of Shanghai. In the past few months there have also been talks of social network liberation, which would include lifting the firewalls that block access to sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Whether these plans are carried out or not remains yet to be seen, but there is one thing that is for certain: Although the growth of the media has expanded the potential fan base for teenage pop stars in skinny jeans, it has also broken down language barriers, culture clashes and country boarders.

Simone Bishop


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