Why Cai Xukun and Yang Mi are still China's top celebrities

The April R3 Celebrity Index shows that Chinese boy band member Cai Xukun, at No 1, and actress Yang Mi, at No 2, are the the stars generating the most social media discussion in China last month. Photo: R3

This article was originally written by Yiling Pan for Jing Daily

Chinese boy band member Cai Xukun continues to be the most talked-about star on social media owing to his ongoing legal disputes with a video company.

He is ranked top of April’s R3 Celebrity Index – a monthly ranking of China’s most influential celebrities on the nation’s most important social media platforms, from Weibo and WeChat to Toutiao and Baidu.

Who are China’s biggest stars? R3’s celebrity index uses data to find out

The index, presented by the online publication, Jing Daily, and the global consultancy, R3, was launched in March.

April R3 Celebrity Index. Photo: Courtesy of R3

On April 12, Cai sued Chinese video-streaming website, Bilibili, a platform that embraces user-generated video content, for the violation of his personal rights.

Last year, Cai filmed an official video playing basketball, when he was named as the brand ambassador of the NBA League in China.

His basketball skills, however, were strongly criticised by Chinese people, which led many online users to re-edit the NBA video to make jokes about him.

The lawsuit helped amass public interest. By surrounding himself with a lot of negative sentiment, Cai is a typical example of a Chinese celebrity whose name is well-known, but for all the wrong reasons.

Luxury brands need to be extremely cautious about working with him by fully assessing the benefits and drawbacks of the collaboration before pushing the “go” button.

Actress and fashion queen Yang Mi is the second-most popular Chinese star according to the R3 Celebrity Index. Photo: VCG

Yang Mi, China’s fashion queen – the face of brands such as Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman and Estée Lauder – is the second-most popular star this month.

The actress’ popularity was driven by the launch of her first variety show, The Escape of the Chamber, which drew the attention of her fans and the general public.

Deng Lun, a popular idol among millennials who is ranked No 6 on the list, has also joined the show.

The third-most popular celebrity, Zhao Liying, also climbed up the ranking owing to controversies.

Her fans were in a fierce Weibo spat with the fans of another actress, Liu Shishi, over who was more popular.

The dispute generated a lot of comments, which brought her a great deal of exposure.

During the same month, Zhao also fired her agent, Huang Bing, who brought her fashion connection to brands such as Christian Dior, which made online users speculate about their relationship.

Actress Zhao Liying has climbed up the ranking owing to controversies in April. Photo: VCG

Diliraba, who is ranked seventh, used to be the brand ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana, but resigned from the role immediately after the brand’s video disaster last year.

Over the past month, she has been seen dressed by luxury brands such as Stella McCartney.

Jackson Yee (No 10), the brand ambassador for Bottega Veneta; Lay Zhang (No 12), the brand ambassador for Valentino; and Angelababy (No 18), the brand ambassador for Christian Dior, maintained a high level of popularity on social media, which can be used by brands.

Jackson Yee is ranked no 10 in the R3 Celebrity Index.

In China, the power of celebrities is driving brand engagement with consumers.

When Italian luxury brand Gucci recently released a dedicated WeChat post to document the three-day Italian journey of its Chinese brand ambassador, the actress Ni Ni, the post quickly received over 100,000 page views.

It was liked by 639 people with a great number of users praising the Gucci outfits worn by Ni and the compatibility of the brand and the celebrity.

Louis Vuitton’s latest collaboration with its Chinese ambassador, Kris Wu – ranked No 13 on the list – to unveil its next-generation Horizon Soft travel case, also sparked positive consumer sentiment.

The post on Weibo, which featured Wu’s campaign video, garnered over 13,000 comments and more than one million re-shares.


In both Gucci and Louis Vuitton’s cases, choosing the right celebrities and forming a long-lasting relationship with them has proved to be important in growing awareness, popularity, and a positive image for luxury brands in the Chinese market.

It is not an easy task. The difficulty is always in how a luxury brand can pick out a celebrity that fits its image and whether it can form a lasting business relationship with them.


The following ranking of 20 top celebrity influencers in March is calculated using data from Weibo’s Fan Base (calculating Activity, Adorable and Social Influence Indexes), Toutiao, Baidu and WeChat.

Weibo assumes the most weight, as it is the platform where fan engagement can be traced. The Baidu, Toutiao and WeChat indexes are based more on search behaviour.

The data from Weibo helps indicate the commercial value for each celebrity, especially for the Adorable index, where fans actually use a pay function to express their admiration for a celebrity.

1. Activity Index: the Activity Index counts the number of interactions on Weibo, which is a statistical indicator of interactions (including forwarding, commenting, likes, replying to comments, and comment likes on Weibo) generated by the content posted by the star over the past 30 days (including posts and comments).

2. Adorable Index: this refers to the contribution of fans to the celebrity. Weibo has a mechanism where fans can contribute their admiration for the celebrity by giving virtual flowers which are not free.

The adorable index is generated from the number of flowers the celebrity receives monthly.

3. Social Influence Index: many users publish microblogs each day that mention celebrities. These microblogs are read by other users and the number of readings reflects the recent popularity of a celebrity.

In addition, a large number of users search for celebrities on Weibo every day, and the search volume generated reflects the recent popularity of those celebrities. This data adds up to the social influence index of the celebrity.

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Boy band member Cai – in a row with a video company – and actress Yang – star of new variety show – are hottest topics of discussion on mainland social media platforms