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Society

Party Lines: Why China Prefers Virtual Stars For Show Business Fame

Hologram idols are the new stars of the entertainment industry in China, performing in live concerts and in front of audiences of millions. It's not just tech companies that are happy about the boom, the leadership in Beijing is too for more political reasons.

Photo of "​Virtual stars" decorations in a fast-food restaurant in Shanghai

"Virtual stars" in a fast-food restaurant in Shanghai

Wang Gang/Sipa Asia/SIPA Asia/ZUMA
Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — Luo Tianyi celebrated her breakthrough at the Spring Festival Gala. The show is broadcast every year on state television at the beginning of the Chinese New Year. With approximately 700 million viewers, it is not only the TV program with the largest audience worldwide, it is also one of the most influential shows in Chinese culture.

What's special about Luo Tianyi is that she's not human. The singer is a hologram, an avatar. And the first virtual idol to make it into the Spring Festival Gala.

Luo can look back on a glittering career. She was born out of a cooperation between a Chinese and a Japanese company, and in 2012 she was introduced to the public. In the years that followed, she rose to stardom.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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