Meet the performers and producers of China’s most popular live- streaming app
Zhou Qianbai is a 20-year-old striver from Hulin, a small city in Heilongjiang province with a single main street and little in the way of entertainment for men his age. Zhou dropped out of school at 15 and moved southwards, to warmer Guangdong, where he trained in martial arts, hoping to find work as an actor. Lonely and homesick, and having found little in the way of success down south, Zhou returned home in 2014. It was in Hulin, where he now lives with his mother, that he turned to Kuaishou as an outlet for his skills.
The app allows Zhou to indulge his own ideas for sketches and comedy videos. By sharing these clips, Zhou has attracted around 30,000 followers to date. In the recession-hit economy of northeast China, it’s difficult for young people to find a good job; nor can they earn a living simply by broadcasting. Like his girlfriend Jing, 23, who runs a private kindergarten outside Hulin city, Zhou teaches martial arts to kids to help make ends meet. Few believe he is going to become web celebrity like the iconic MC Tianyou, least of all his girlfriend, who doesn’t like or understand his enthusiasm for Kuaishou. She would rather Zhou be a “traditional, caring man” with a reliable job, who dedicates all his free time to her; it’s a constant source of contention for the couple.
But that doesn’t stop Zhou from dreaming. After his parents divorced, his father remarried. Although the two still see each other, Zhou feels his father never really cared about him and looks down on what he does. “If I get rich and famous in the future, I want to buy a big new house for my mother, to thank her for supporting what I’m trying to do,” tsays Zhou.
Although Zhou can earn up to 300 RMB for one of his daily broadcasts, he knows that this is not a sustainable future. Under pressure from his girlfriend, Zhou eventually decided to borrow 20,000 RMB to start his own kung fu class at his girlfriend’s school, teaching students aged 6 to 15 who pay 300 RMB a month. With his weekends spent teaching, Zhou has put his Kuaishou ambitions on hold in order to keep faith with his family—he still makes videos, only these ones promote his new business, rather than his true passion for comedy.
Zhou shoots a new video in a teahouse opened by his friend. Most of Zhou's videos feature Zhou with his Hulin friends. In this scene, he is pretending to be the rich owner of the shop
Zhou and friends at a nightclub in Hulin