Winning the Winter Olympics gold medal representing China, freestyle skier Eileen Gu was showered with endorsement deals. Yet, the American-born Chinese could suddenly get “canceled” by the Chinese regime in the future. 

Bryce Whitwam, adjunct professor of marketing at NYU in Shanghai, told Reuters, “It could be a simple Tweet, it could be a very simple mistake and they will wipe her clean from any kind of coverage, like they’ve done with many other Chinese celebrities.”

According to state-media Beijing News, her endorsement price was $2.5 million after taxes. Last year, her total revenue from brand sales was over $15.7 million. News media Tianxiashangwang estimates that Gu’s revenue has exceeded $31.5 million since the beginning of 2021.

But the significant earnings come with conditions. When Gu signaled that she would keep her American citizenship, Hu Xijin, a key columnist of Chinese mouthpiece Global Times, quickly hardened his tone on the country’s favorite person.

According to Reuters, he wrote, “She gives the Chinese public happiness, so there is no shame in seeking a commercial return. But the political elements need to be minimized as much as possible. It is risky for Gu Ailing (Eileen Gu) to be that kind of a vector.”

Reuters noted that Gu has managed to keep her words carefully aligned to China’s interests. One of those is evading human rights abuses, one of the critical topics centered around the Winter Olympics. 

In an interview with French sports magazine L’Equipe, Gu skirted discussing the situation with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, whose safety had brought global attention when she alleged against a top official in the country.

The 18-year-old athlete said, “I’m very grateful that she’s, yeah, happy and healthy and out there doing her thing again.” 

Tip-toeing around under scrutiny would not be easy for Eileen Gu. On Feb. 8, Gu was criticized when she falsely defended her privileges in using Instagram while still on the mainland. She said she accessed the platform via simply using VPN.

Whitwam said, “Eileen has done a great job in making sure she does not say the wrong thing, but you know what? You are going to mess up sometimes.”

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