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Teen pop celebrity, China-style

The New York Times recently reported Guo Jingming to be the most successful writer in China. This may come as a shock to some, but not to star-crazed Chinese teenagers, who flock by the thousands to his book signings.

The pop singer turned author has seen three of his four novels sell over a million copies each, earning him $1.4-million last year.

Guo is the most successful of a dozen young celebrity authors who make up the post-’80s generation, some others of whom have also achieved book sales in the millions. This group includes the high school dropout and professional car racer Han Han, 25, who derides China’s inefficient educational system in his novels and regularly insults older, more established artists on his blog, and Zhang Yueran, 26, whose novel Daffodils Took Carp and Went Away features a bulimic girl who falls in love with her stepfather, is mistreated by her mother and is sent off to boarding school.

While the Chinese government frequently jails dissident writers or forces them into exile, it mostly ignores the antics of Guo and the other post-’80s writers. For all their flamboyance, they exemplify the social ideals of the new China ” commercialism and individualism ” said Lydia Liu, a professor of Chinese and comparative literature at Columbia University. They don’t pose any threat, Liu said. They collaborate.