Got a prob­lem? Ask China’s on­line agony aunts

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

Got a prob­lem? Ask China’s on­line agony aunts

WON­DER­ING if you have a sex ad­dic­tion? Have a ques­tion about the US-China trade war’s likely im­pact? Or about whether to buy a house? China’s on­line ques­tion-and-an­swer mavens like Gu Zhongyi are there for you. Gu, a nu­tri­tion­ist, is among hun­dreds of thou­sands of “ex­perts” who sell their ad­vice in thriv­ing Chi­nese in­ter­net fo­rums where they serve as web-based agony aunts. Around 10,000 ques­tions per day were asked last year via “Wenda” (“Q & A”), a func­tion on dom­i­nant Chi­nese so­cial me­dia plat­form Weibo where fi­nan­cial, health and pro­fes­sional ex­perts – of­ten self-ap­pointed – earn money with each re­sponse.

Gu quit his nu­tri­tion­ist job at a top Bei­jing hos­pi­tal last year to fo­cus on Wenda, es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a go-to guy for masses of young moth­ers with ques­tions on nu­tri­tion for their ba­bies. “I think it is more mean­ing­ful to do a job that can im­pact more peo­ple. Wenda is a win-win,” said Gu, who sup­ple­ments his on­line in­come writ­ing pay-for-ac­cess ar­ti­cles, and also books. Many Wenda pun­dits are cre­den­tialed ex­perts, but many more be­come au­thor­i­ties merely by draw­ing enough of a fol­low­ing. They set a rate, typ­i­cally be­tween 100-200 yuan (RM60-RM120) per ques­tion, an­swer­ing those of their choos­ing.

More money comes in via “snoop­ing”, in which other users pay one yuan each to view an­swers to pre­vi­ously asked ques­tions. Fu­elled by China’s ubiq­ui­tous use of mo­bile-phone pay­ments, snoop­ing of hot top­ics can bring in tens of thou­sands of yuan per an­swer, which is split be­tween the asker, the ex­pert and Weibo. “You need to find the time to go to a hos­pi­tal or to buy a book. But the time and money you spend on it are costly. But I can just give the an­swers to you,” Gu said.

One of Wenda’s more pop­u­lar ex­perts is “Queen CCup”, whose iden­tity and qual­i­fi­ca­tions are un­known but who has es­tab­lished her­self as an or­a­cle on sex, with more than six mil­lion fol­low­ers. Open dis­cus­sion of sex is still frowned upon in China, and Queen C-Cup has com­plained of be­ing ha­rassed on­line. But Wenda grants a de­gree of anonymity to those ask­ing ques­tions, who seek Queen C-Cup’s ad­vice on ev­ery­thing from jazz­ing up one’s sex life to grap­pling with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or the an­guish of forced mar­riages. Her fees range up to sev­eral hun­dred yuan and her an­swers are heav­ily snooped. Wenda is be­com­ing an im­por­tant part of China’s knowl­edge econ­omy, Bei­jing-based in­ter­net re­search com­pany Sootoo In­sti­tute said in a re­cent re­port. The num­ber of peo­ple will­ing to pay for knowl­edge on Wenda or use other forms of paid con­tent or ar­ti­cles dou­bled in 2017 to nearly 188 mil­lion peo­ple, it said. The dragged-out US-China trade tus­sle has spurred a wave of ques­tions, es­pe­cially be­cause China’s gov­ern­ment – ever wary of po­ten­tial so­cial in­sta­bil­ity – has largely sti­fled dis­cus­sion of the dis­pute’s im­pact.

“Is there any way China and the US may rec­on­cile? How will we or­di­nary folks be af­fected?” one Wenda user asked re­cently, while count­less oth­ers seek ad­vice like whether to stock up now on cer­tain goods. China’s ris­ing hous­ing prices are another top sub­ject that has minted count­less “ex­perts”, in­clud­ing Wang Si­cong. An in­vestor and son of a top Chi­nese busi­ness ty­coon, Wang was re­cently asked – for a fee of 10,000 yuan – whether young ur­ban res­i­dents should use their par­ents’ sav­ings to buy homes. The an­swer – rent­ing may be a bet­ter choice, Wang said – was snooped nearly one mil­lion times.– AFP

I think it is more mean­ing­ful to do a job that can im­pact more peo­ple. Wenda is a win-win. Gu Zhongyi China’s on­line ques­tion-and-an­swer mavens

AFP photo

Gu Zhongyi pos­ing for a pic­ture at his home in Bei­jing.–

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