Occasionally, an eight-year-old American boy at an annual conference for one of the biggest Chinese Internet companies was in attendance last week, perhaps unlikely.
This kid was a viral Internet star Gavin Thomas, who is known in China as a "fake smiling boy". Pictures that the camera smiles – first as a little girl, then as a young man who looks puzzled or shows his embarrassing smile on his brand, has been floating on the Internet for years, becoming clips in social media like Twitter and Reddit.
But after Chinese social media users began to deal with their mom with Gavin's photos published on Instagram a few years ago, his popularity exploded.
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Coogie, a 18-year-old from Shanghai, has been tracking Gavin's Instagram account for years.
"Later, I noticed that many people in China would use screenshots from his videos to remember or short footage," she said. "They were so cute and funny, and my own ones became very popular."
In China, many memes refer to the awkward situations they encounter in their everyday lives. Some catch words: "I'll sit there there watching you calmly," "School is looking forward to me" and "I'm weak and helpless".
Tencent, who recently invited Gavin to his annual conference, even began using Gavin's facial expressions to be the most widely used message application in China. Gavin can also be seen on a series of mugs, posters and clothing that were located on Chinese e-commerce sites.
All this shows how easily recognizable Western memes have broken linguistic and cultural barriers in order to attract users halfway through the world in a well-known online environment.
"We have found that Gavin's face, sold in China at the beginning of the year, is used on a small market," said its director, Byron Ashley. South China Morning Post.
"And this was the first indication that we need to build a presence in China".
Gavin's first Weibo account was set up in July, and now has over 1.8 million followers who eagerly comment on updates from everyday life such as photos and live streams.
The boy first traveled to China from the autochthonous Minnesota in August to meet with fans and to see some of the country's main attractions.
"Absolutely he loved pandas in Chengdu," said Ashley, who promised Gavin would soon be "soon."
Gavin's success was in no way helped by his uncle Nick McAudon, an internet star who first started publishing the funny videos of a baby at the age of two now-unmanaged Vine video platforms.
Now more and more Chinese fans jump to their cemetery.
"Because he's cute!" Ley said, the 20-year-old from Chengdu, when she was asked why the big fan of Gavin is. "Who can not love such a cute guy?"
Leya, who did not use her real name, first learned about Gavin through Chinese targets. Then she began to monitor her in Instagram and watch his videos in order to get a sense of her everyday life.
"It's because it's so young, but so funny," agreed Coogie.
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