Frictions: Fragmented Authoritarianism in China’s Esports

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Frictions: Fragmented Authoritarianism in China’s Esports

Author | Affiliation:
Junyi Lv | USC Annenberg

Presenting at:
Panel 1B |  Games and E-sports


Fitting China’s initiatives of ‘digital Chinese Dream’ and ‘digital Silk Road,’ esports grows rapidly with government endorsement and audience celebration. However, little empirical work has been done to explore the tensions between grand policies and the industry’s organic dynamism. This article explores esports’ development in China, specifically, frictions between multiple stakeholders in the market, shaped by the country’s political model of ‘fragmented authoritarianism.’ I conducted empirical fieldwork, including 20 interviews with stakeholders, in China’s center of esports, Shanghai. My findings center around frictions in four aspects: esports’ multiple definitions, industry’s professionalization and pan-entertainment, individual esports players’ careers and gender inequality, and especially the nexus of esports and urban development – esports real estate in big cities and small towns. The article concludes that frictions between stakeholders bring both precarities and possibilities to development, contextualizing a newly fast-growing media industry in an authoritarian regime and its mutual influences with different societal perspectives.


Esports, China, friction, fragmented authoritarianism, urban development, esports real estate, professionalization, pan-entertainment, home-away system, gender inequality

About the author

Junyi Lv


Junyi Lv is a Ph.D. student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California. She holds a Master degree of Communication Management also from USC Annenberg, and a Bachelor degree in Broadcasting Journalism from China. Her research interests lie in the intersection of public spheres, social media entertainment, and environmental communication. Currently, she is working on a project about China’s esports industry.

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