Socio-cultural strategies of laowai wanghong

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Socio-cultural strategies of laowai wanghong

Author | Affiliation:
Crystal Abidin | Curtin University

Presenting at:
Panel 1C | Chinese Outbound Social Media Platforms in the Indian-Pacific: Just How Soft is Chinese Digital Power?


In Chinese culture, ‘laowai’ (老外) is an informal colloquialism that refers to foreigners and non-Chinese nationals residing in China. On Silicon Valley social media such as YouTube and TikTok, laowai wanghong are an especially popular genre of foreigners who either (1) communicate various aspects of Chinese culture to a predominantly foreign and international audience outside of China, or (2) communicate the cultural distinctions and nuances between their foreign backgrounds and Chinese experience to a predominantly local Chinese audience. Often, many laowai wanghong are ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers, exchange students in Universities, models and talents in the entertainment industry, partners of Chinese citizens, and workers in various Chinese corporations. They use their everyday lifestyles as a canvas to provide insights into Chinese customs, norms, practices, and cultures with intimate detail, promoting China as a hub for tourism and commerce, and celebrating Chinese culture. This paper presents some preliminary insights from an ongoing project investigating laowai wanghong in China (alongside studies into gaijin (外人) internet celebrities in Japan and oegugin (외국인) influencers in South Korea). The project employs digital ethnography, content analysis, and personal interviews to understand the role of laowai wanghong in promoting Chinese culture, to uncover how intercultural learning and exchange occurs via laowai wanghong as intermediaries.

About the author

Crystal Abidin


Crystal Abidin is Associate Professor of Internet Studies and Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow at Curtin University.

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