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Prof Xiaoli Tian

Associate Professor

9.22, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus

3917 5695

HKU Scholars Hub
Personal Website
Personal Website
Prof Xiaoli Tian
  • Xiaoli Tian is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She received her Ph.D. from Department of Sociology, The University of Chicago. Her research interests include how preexisting knowledge paradigms and cultural norms influence the way people respond to unexpected transformations of their everyday routines. This interest is reflected in her two main lines of research: medical knowledge as situated practices and social interaction. She has written extensively on various forms of online interactions, including emails, blogs, online literature websites in China, social media, etc. Her writings have been published in American Journal of Sociology; Modern China; Information, Communication and Society; Journal of Contemporary Ethnography; Media, Culture and Society; Studies in Media and Communications; Chinese Sociological Review, Symbolic Interaction, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, among others.

    Continuing these two lines of research, her current research focuses on various forms of online interaction, as well as Traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary China.​

  • PhD, Sociology
    University of Chicago

    MPhil, Sociology
    Chinese University of Hong Kong

    BA Sociology and Economics
    Peking University

    • New media

    • Social interaction

    • Social studies of science and technology

    • Medical sociology

    • Comparative and historical sociology

    • Information and communication technology

    • Cultural sociology

  • Privacy and Face-Work on Chinese Social Media (GRF funded project)

    Various forms of online interaction in China

    Popularity of online fictions in contemporary China (HKU seed fund project)

  • 2018    Early-in-Career Award, Society for the Studies of Symbolic Interaction

    2017  Outstanding Author Contribution, Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence​

    2016 The Huntington Library Fellowship, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, California, USA.

    2009 Student Paper Award, the American Sociological Association, Communication and Information Technologies Section

    2008 Social Science Research Paper Competition, the University of Chicago

    2008 Honorable Mention for the Graduate Student Paper Award Competition, American Sociological Association, Social Psychology Section

    2005 Carl Couch Internet Research Award.

  • Journal articles:

    Tian, Xiaoli and Qian Li. (accepted and forthcoming 2023). “Seeking Certainty in an Asymmetric Relationship: Livestream Shopping in China.” Qualitative Sociology.

    Zhang, Long and Xiaoli Tian. (accepted and forthcoming, 2023). Defending the Hospital or Supporting the Complainant: Morality in Medical Disputes. Chinese Sociological Review.

    Tian, Xiaoli, Dan Liu and Xiaoyan Han. 2023. “Living in the Shadow of Market Competition: Career Commitment and Orders of Worth of Social Workers in Shanghai”. American Journal of Cultural Sociology. Online first:

    Miao, Weishan and Xiaoli Tian. 2022. Accepted and forthcoming. “Persona: How professional women in China negotiate gender performance online.” Social Media and Society.

    Tian, Xiaoli and Sai Zhang. 2022. “Expert or experiential knowledge? How knowledge informs situated action in childcare practices.” Social Science & Medicine. Online first:

    Deng Yunxue and Xiaoli Tian. 2021. “Triadic Interaction and Collective Bargaining of Autoworkers in South China” Journal of Contemporary China. 31(135): 459-473.

    Tian, Xiaoli and Yanan Guo. 2021. “An Online Acquaintance Community: The Emergence of Chinese Virtual Civility.” Symbolic Interaction. 44 (4): 771–797.
    A video abstract is available at

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2021. “An Interactional Space of Permanent Observability: WeChat and Reinforcing the Power Hierarchy in Chinese Workplaces.” Sociological Forum. 36 (1): 51-69.

    Li, Xu-Hong, Tian-Ming Zhang, Yuen Yum Yau, Yi-Zhou Wang, Yin-Ling Irene Wong, Lawrence Yang, Xiao-li Tian Cecilia Lai-Wan Chan and Mao-Sheng Ran. 2020. “Peer-to-peer contact, social support and self-stigma among people with severe mental illness in Hong Kong”. International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

    Cheris Shun-ching Chan, Paul Joosse, Sylvia J. Martin, and Xiaoli Tian. 2020. “Ethnography in Calamitous Times.” Special Issue on “Ethnography in the age of Covid-19”, Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (Italian Journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research). 2020(2): 175-184.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2019. “The Allure of Being Modern: Personal Quality as Status Symbol Among Migrant Families in Shanghai” Chinese Sociological Review. 51(3): 311-335.​

    Tian, Xiaoli. (2019) “Space and Personal Contacts: Cross-Group Interaction between Mainland and Local University Students in Hong KongJournal of Social and Personal Relationships vol. 36(1) 63–82. ​

    Lin, Tony Zhiyang and Xiaoli Tian. 2019. “Audience Design and Context Discrepancy: How Online Debates Lead to Opinion Polarization.” Symbolic Interaction. 42(1): 70-97. A video abstract is available at​

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2018. “Escaping the interpersonal power game: Online shopping in China.” Qualitative Sociology. 41(4), 545-568.​

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2017. “Immediate Context, Life Experiences, and Perception: How Do Rural Migrants in Urban China Perceive an Unfair Policy?” Chinese Sociological Review. 49 (2): 138-161.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2017. “Embodied versus disembodied information: How online artifacts influence offline interpersonal interaction.” Symbolic Interaction. 40 (2): 190-211. ​

    Tian, Xiaoli and Yunxue Deng. 2017. “Organizational Hierarchy, Deprived Masculinity, and Confrontational Practices: Men Doing Women’s Jobs in a Global Factory.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 46 (4): 464-489.

    Tian, Xiaoli and Michael Adorjan. 2016. “Fandom and Coercive Empowerment: The commissioned production of Chinese online literature.” Media, Culture & Society. 38 (6): 881-900.

    Tian, Xiaoli , Daniel A. Menchik. 2016. “On Violating One’s Own Privacy: N-adic Utterances and Inadvertent Disclosures in Online Venues.” Studies in Media and Communications, 11: pp. 3 – 30.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2016. “Network Domains in Social Networking Sites: Expectations, Meanings, and Social Capital”. Information, Communication & Society. 19 (2): 188-202.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2015. “Rumor and Secret Space: Organ-Snatching Tales and Medical Missions in Nineteenth-Century China.” Modern China. 41 (2): 197-236.

    Menchik, Daniel and Xiaoli Tian. 2008. “Putting Social Context into Text: The Semiotics of Email Interaction.” American Journal of Sociology. 114: 332-70.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2016. “Parasocial interaction in the internet era: a sociological analysis of online literature in China.” Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 31 (1): 173-181.

    Tian, Xiaoli (with Han Xiaoyan). 2015. “(Immediate Context, Culture, and Selective Attention: The Perceptions of Long-term Petitioners).” Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 30 (1): 59-67.

    Tian, Xiaoli (with Han Xiaoyan) 2016. “制度、文化、与日常确证——外来移民及其子女的情景性身份认同Institution, Culture, and Corroboration of Everyday Life – Situational Identification of Migrants and their Children in Urban China.” 清华大学学报 (哲学社会科学)Journal of Tsinghua University (Philosophy and Social Sciences). 31(6): 175-182.

    Book chapter:

    Li, Qian and Xiaoli Tian. 2022. “The Presence, Performance, and Publics of Online Interactions.” Oxford Handbook of Symbolic Interaction, edited by Wayne Brekhus, Thomas DeGloma and William Force. Oxford University Press.

    Tian, Xiaoli and Yui Fung Yip. 2021. “Physical Co-presence and Distinctive Features of Online Interactions.” in The Routledge International Handbook of Interactionism, edited by Dirk vom Lehn, Natalia Ruiz-Junco, and Will Gibson. London, Routledge.

    Tian, Xiaoli and Qian Li. 2021. “Facework on Chinese Social Media.” In The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Digital Media. Edited by Sarah Sobieraj and Deana Rohlinger. Oxford University Press. ​

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2019. “Fantasy is More Believable: The Shadow Civil Sphere in Chinese Online Fiction.” Pp. 167-187 in The Civil Sphere in East Asia. Edited by Jeffrey Alexander, David Palmer, Sunwoong Park and Agnes Shuk-mei Ku. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Tian, Xiaoli. 2017. “Face-work on Social Media: The Presentation of Self on Renren and Facebook.” Chinese Social Media Today: Social, Cultural, and Political Implications. Edited by Mike Kent, Katie Ellis and Jian Xu. London: Routledge.

    See all publications in HKU Scholars Hub →

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