Update published July 3, 2023
A week after the scandal was exposed, Cai released a statement stating that he had a relationship with that woman in 2021, with everything resolved and ended that year with no further entanglement between the two parties. He mentioned that the relationship was consensual and not involving a minor, and there was no “forced abortion” or any illegal behavior.
Cai’s studio stated that they have sued the person spreading these rumors. This Weibo post has gained over 140,000 shares, 440,000 comments, and over 6 million likes. Some of the most popular comments mainly criticize him for having been in a relationship (many Chinese and Korean idols are often expected by fans to remain single). The hashtag #蔡徐坤回应# (Cai Xukun Responds) has already accumulated over 2.2 billion readings as of today.
Original article published June 27, 2023
What Happened: Chinese social media was abuzz after a local paparazzo claimed that Cai Xukun had engaged in a one-night stand with a woman years ago, who later became pregnant. According to the unsubstantiated allegation, he requested that she undergo an abortion, which she eventually did.
The hashtag “Cai Xukun Ms. C Abortion” has gained massive traction on Weibo, amassing nearly 2.7 billion reads within two days and sparking nearly 200,000 discussions. The popular star boasts 38.6 million followers on the platform and is the representative of over 40 brands, including big names such as Prada, Givenchy Beauty, TAG Hauer and Clé de Peau Beauté.
The Jing Take: The Chinese pop star and owner of three production houses has not yet responded to the allegations. None of the brands he represents, including Prada, Givenchy and Tag Hauer, have announced the termination of their partnership in response to the scandal. But no doubt they will be watching the situation carefully.
The silence is perhaps surprising considering the hypersensitivity of Chinese idol fans, who can go into hysterics when news of a scandal, proven or not, spreads like wildfire online. Brands who have signed endorsement deals with big Chinese celebrities are typically pressured to drop them on moral grounds when an alleged scandal comes to light.
Due to various controversies involving Prada’s past Chinese celebrity ambassadors including Ke Zhendong, Zheng Shuang, and Li Yifeng, who have subsequently left the entertainment industry, Chinese netizens jokingly commented on Prada’s unfortunate luck when picking their local talent.
The complicated story surrounding Cai also involves his mother playing negotiator, private investigators, police and cash bribes. The woman, named C, has allegedly decided to expose the affair two years after the offense because of emotional damage inflicted upon her. During the paparazzo’s livestream on June 26, C went on video to share “evidence” such as an ultrasound image of the baby, recorded conversations, abortion documents, as well as WeChat conversations between Xukun’s mother and staff.
From Chinese social media search data, the topic is hot right now, so brands will be in crisis talks — not least with Cai. China’s fan economy is one of the world’s most powerful, and supporters of a celebrity will hustle their huge fan bases to protect, promote and commercially aid their chosen idol. In this case, Cai has no shortage of defenders among his 38.6 million Weibo followers, who are amateur sleuthing to refute the claims.
Perhaps this will pan out to be nothing, but watching how netizens and brands react as the issue evolves will provide another insight into China’s complex arena of celebrity culture, sex, scandal and lucrative brand deals.
Additional reporting by Huiyan Chen
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.