Meet the per­form­ers and pro­duc­ers of China’s most pop­u­lar live- stream­ing app

The World of Chinese - - Cover Story -


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

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