China’s Factory of Ideas – Chinese internet culture exported

China’s Factory of Ideas – Chinese internet culture exported


For four hours every day, this 23-year-old hangs out with people on a livestream. It’s a real job that earns real money. As much as ten thousand dollars a month. Last year, she bought an apartment in Beijing. Livestreaming is huge in China. It’s mainstream here in a way that it isn’t yet in the West. And it’s more interactive than just watching a feed. Fans vie for attention from hosts. And to get it, they spend real money on virtual gifts. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that’s soon projected to surpass China’s box-office revenue. There are tens of thousands of livestreaming celebrities. There are even livestreaming incubators. That’s what this place is. That’s more than 2 million dollars a year, for basically talking to fans. The Chinese livestreaming audience is the size of the entire US population. They watch farmers, construction workers, comedians, and of course, good-looking men and women. And whether or not you’re into it, it’s already coming to the West. But this story is bigger than livestreaming. It’s about the future of the internet, courtesy of China. I’m Isabelle Niu. This is Quartz. Please subscribe to our channel. – Hi, nice to meet you. – Nice to meet you as well. Welcome. At first glance, LiveMe looks like your regular LA tech startup. Except for one thing. – Where are your developers? – So, all the developers are based in Beijing. LiveMe is a Chinese company, backed by Chinese investment, trying to bring Chinese-style livestreaming to the US. In its first year, LiveMe earned $100 million in revenue, mostly from US users watching American livestreamers. Like Andrea Eccardi. The total hours I’ve been streaming on LiveMe could be about 2,400 hours. This is her job. She’s a full-time livestreamer in Staten Island, New York. “You get a big reaction. Oh my gosh, another one! That’s a ton of hearts. The cool animations just make you so excited.” LiveMe wants to train an entire cohort of livestreamers like this and, really, to transform entertainment. But LiveMe is also an example of something bigger: A shift in where tech innovations are coming from. Guo Wei is a Chinese venture capitalist who invests in startups in both China and the US. And he met me on a Sunday, after what must have been a very long Saturday night. Guo Wei was in LA to visit an incubator he’d founded. He said that, ten years ago, when he was just starting out, he would study US startups to find the next big innovation. And now, he says the opposite is happening. China has roughly 700 million mobile internet users, making it the largest e-commerce and mobile payment market on Earth. As of May of 2018 four of the 10 most valuable private companies in the world are Chinese. And that is a sign of something even bigger. A lot of recent Silicon Valley trends did start in China. Facebook and Apple added payment features to their messengers, following in the footsteps of WeChat, China’s largest messaging app. Meanwhile, electric scooter sharing is taking off not just in San Francisco, but in cities like LA and Washington, DC. And the founders of those companies say their inspiration was China’s dockless bike sharing. And this shift, from exporting things to exporting ideas, happened not despite government censorship, but, at least partly, because of it. Starting in 1996, the Chinese government began erecting a “Great Firewall” to block out anything it didn’t want its people to know. Foreign tech companies that refused to help with censorship were gradually forced out or banned, and China’s internet became kind of like an isolated island. “I have my Chinese phone, this is for the Chinese internet, and then I have my foreign phone, and this for the foreign internet.” This is Elliot Zaagman. He’s a consultant who helps Chinese tech companies go global. He’s worked in China for years, and he’s had a front row seat to China’s tech boom. “By setting up that firewall, they’ve created an environment where their tech babies can grow up to a point where they’re they’re big enough to do battle with the big boys in Silicon Valley.” Google left China to avoid censorship. In its place, the Chinese company Baidu has become the largest search engine in the country. Alibaba has more sales than eBay and Amazon combined. There’s no Facebook in China, but the social messaging platform WeChat now has a user base the size of the entire population of North and South America. Chinese companies are already competing head-to-head with Silicon Valley titans in markets like India, Japan, Southeast Asia, and South America. And that success also proves something important: That innovation doesn’t actually require democracy or the free flow of ideas. “Chinese internet companies tend to be very, very, very opaque about what they’re doing with the data. And there’s two risks here. One is that actually, a lot of the data just maybe is not secured very well. And then the other side is the government, and the surveillance side of things.” The success of Chinese tech companies is inevitably going to change the internet in ways we can’t even foresee. It’s only just starting to play out. Already, a lot of the things we use in our physical lives are made in China. What’s it going to look like when our digital lives are made there too? Thanks for watching. Are you ready to get into live streaming? Let me know in the comments

Danny Hutson

62 thoughts on “China’s Factory of Ideas – Chinese internet culture exported

  1. I want to watch those cute farmers, down to earth countryside people living lifestyle. Is there any friendly mainlanders here to teach me how?☺🌸

  2. There are times you need to put down your mobile phone and see the real world around you. The skies, the trees, the flowers with your own eyes, not through the screen. Take a breather.

  3. What has China invented ? Alll of their so callled innovations are dependent upon innovations developed in the West they’re just variations of the same innovation. Call me when China comes up with something as groundbreaking as the internet. Until then I’m still going to be under the impression that without growth fostering institutions like private property rights, rule of law, a strong free market, and strong economy you cannot have innovation. Also freedom and privacy are key as well.

  4. Live streaming is the new thing. Much like the first time someone climbed on top of a box in the town square. So how long will people pay high rates for cheap entertainment with no production value?

  5. Livestreaming has been in the west from at least 1992 China has nothing new to offer except information on people to the tyranical Chinese government

  6. 6:05 Talking about government surveillance succeeded by showing the traffic cameras. Lmao. Can you just stop using such naive montage tricks to demonize China? That's too old.

  7. So, American internet companies are now copying their Chinese counterparts? Isn't that IP theft? 😂

  8. Only two men voted no to making China's President for life? Maybe, just maybe Trump can become President for life also? YES! I see clearly now. Trump can be President for at least 15 or more year? China, thank you for showing us fools the way. You are great! Hong Kong love there new masters today more than ever. China is pure unselfish love for all humanity. Please give us more!

  9. Without the heavy makeup, those live cam girls are nothing but below-average girls. Nothing special about them.

  10. 5:45 China only kickstarted the "innovation cycle" when government control was not so powerful. So yes, you don't have to be a democracy if you want to make money, but no, you don't get the innovation without free flow of ideas.

  11. Sorry that's nothing new in a United States of America…. have you ever heard the app that's called live. Same thing. Nothing new. It be our for 4 years now

  12. I am an International student exported from China and have recently become Quartz's membership…it feels so good to find a news resource which stands on a neutral position.

  13. Those crazy things are only for the taste of Asians. Japan also has a lot of weird stuff. Just because they have those peculiar things, doesn't mean others in the world will follow.

  14. This is not tech innovation. Please. The world is turning upside down. We engineers created all this technology for good use and not for idiots to use it and make money from basically doing nothing but consuming other's attention and money everyday. These live streamers are like parasites.

  15. Please someone give me answer from where revenue come from ads are from other sources please explain .😗😗😗🤔🤔

  16. Um…watching this started making my chest hurt! Just because Live Streaming is successful, profitable for big tech companies and the select few top earners, does not mean this is a positive platform for most people.
    From this video it appears the Chinese to be glued to their phones (for mind dulling entertainment purposes) even more-so than the West. If this is what China thinks is good for it's people and the rest of the world…it makes me very heavy hearted. I'm 27 by the way.

  17. This is pretentious and stupid. China isn’t going anywhere. People paying money for a superficial connection in their pocket.

  18. China needs to develop a copy of Facebook. WeChat isn't there yet. WeChat still needs a fully featured browser version for PC with news feed, sharing, etc.

  19. It’s like watching black mirror coming into life, crazy. Democracy is not required, WTF. So curious how we can avoid those mind sets from influencing the rest of the “free world”.

  20. In my line of work I see this every day. China is really taking over when it comes to many aspects of modern life like the internet, technological advancements, trends, etc.

    This is so real to me now, that I use WeChat in my daily working life to communicate with colleagues and partners in China (that only use that app) and I started learning Mandarin this year to make myself more competitive in the job market. I already know Spanish, Portuguese and English but that is not enough. I see advertisements every day for job openings that have Chinese (fluent) as one of the requirements.

  21. So basically China blocked competition from their market , stole Western tech and now lives behind economic iron curtain that benefits Communist party who made companies like BABA their Communist Party retirement fund. Trump is 100% correct about CHina. These are clever peasants who want to steal everything and pay for nothing.

  22. I admit I had the bad habit, watching live streaming people back then, especially for mukbang one. It got worse when I feel nothing about my life i find interesting and I am craving for more and more pleasurable content and willing to put hours to watch people chewing and talking about their day and my value of life won't increase. Suddenly I stop watching them. I'm sick because I'm sick for that shitty content. It's fully addicting and what you need it's just an active brain. You already have the brain, you just need to activate it and searching for more valuable contents that give essential meaning for your life.

  23. Why are people bashing livestreaming?
    A) It happens outside China and the US (mostly the EU and Oriental-Asia).

    B) It’s not mindless content.
    They can be entertaining to people, and actual effort needs to be put in place, in order to keep people entertained. People have to keep coming up with new ideas that haven’t been done before to attract viewers and make a living. They also have to try and enjoy it themselves. It’s a job but simultaneously a hobby. Much like TV programs, or books, the same few ideas won’t do well forever. A writer/director has to keep coming up with new ideas. A streamer is no different.

    C) People can watch livestreams and experience the outside world. Wow!

    Like watching TV or reading or drawing or writing or sowing or knitting or going to the gym or literally any other hobby, majority of people don’t do it 24/7 and actually have a life. They can experience the outside world.

    They’re, 9x outta 10, not trying to escape through someone else’s life (although I can’t deny it doesn’t happen, but same goes for every hobby).

  24. Humanity is under threat of weird connection, if you want to know each other, make friends and maybe girl/boyfriend.

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