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

100 Responses

  1. Raw says:

    Well this doesn't work for me.

    I'm black Doug

  2. Data Make Sense says:

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

  3. 绝世甜瓜 says:

    这个小姐姐竟然是channel c的创始人之一,世界好小

  4. Ana G. says:

    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.

  5. Huaixing Su says:

    Chinese tech companies really just copy and paste. There's no innovation, really, but censorship.

  6. rubi karia says:

    Internet also need law to grow. Just like civilization..

  7. Alexander J. Pérez Ch. says:

    Just one Word… "Scary" … 🥴🤢🥴🤢

  8. Ally says:

    Wait, what?

  9. aamir mdkhan says:

    Nope

  10. Git Gud says:

    That’s what happen when you ban porn

  11. China Superpower says:

    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.

  12. omgitfeiz says:

    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”.

  13. Alan Ramos says:

    Where is the cx gang at ?

  14. solchrystal says:

    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.

  15. May Castle says:

    Ok someone bring it soon so I can do it.

  16. 儿砸乖 says:

    As a Chinese I think those all sucks

  17. Raymond Zhang says:

    But why? This is beyond stupid. Come on just meet up in person and socialise.

  18. Anoni.mouse same says:

    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.

  19. ninuxy says:

    This is great. Now I have access to a complete list of people that needs to be eradicated.

  20. Eka Putri Septiyani says:

    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.

  21. Ben says:

    I'm not subscribing and please dont wiggle that patronizing image in frount of me.

  22. scotianbank says:

    awwww yiss, more suicidal thoughts fodder, yummmmmmm

  23. vivek c says:

    tik tok's step brother

  24. RianTaeLos Hesablé says:

    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).

  25. Cyborg Hearts says:

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

  26. Mr PewPew says:

    Bruh Asian Alinity

  27. Dan White says:

    The Distracted Age at its best.

  28. Sir John Hammond says:

    1:09 chick looks like a grey alien with hair.

  29. 左将军领徐州牧如东侯 says:

    U know, 我赵国最喜欢养猪..

  30. W B-H says:

    It’s capitalism that leads to innovation not democracy. China has some capitalism which is why they innovate.

    You are convoluting the two for political reasons and it’s upsetting.

  31. Levin Soh says:

    interesting video.

  32. Tania Bezugla says:

    Chinese girls with big eyes look creepy…

  33. chiulian wong says:

    Pete

  34. Peter Newson says:

    I like going on Baidu and searching things like "Tiananmen square massacre" "tank man" and "democracy"

  35. bluesanyu Films says:

    Digital lives made in China.. That's a cool tag line.. Nice writing!

  36. Izlude Tingel says:

    Those things you used to call Gods in old religions… yea they left for a reason.

  37. Brady Chuck says:

    Sounds more like Live Porn Stream but without the sex

  38. Sammy Woo says:

    Gosh, these women use the same video filter to make them look pale white and long face so unnatural.

  39. SillyLittleAshTree says:

    Quartz used to be more impartial, like in this video, I mean to the extent that a westerner can try to understand China even if it's consulting Chinese citizens. I don't know what happened… But lately in the second half of 2019 I find there's a lot of China bashing. I wonder whose interests are being represented and by what sort of coercion…

  40. SillyLittleAshTree says:

    In evolutionary biology you hear about the many lemur species because of the fragmentation of the habitat. It's a wonder people haven't figured that the same happens in innovation and cultural diversity. China's secluded internet is proof of this, imagine the myriad innovations if every major country had its own internet as differentiated as China's. India, Russia, the US, Europe, Latin America, Africa… All would be so filled with innovation. At least China is on the right path.

  41. Berserk says:

    Chinese tech bros are just as foul as the American ones 😷

  42. dracolnyte says:

    oh she really looks like herself in real life

  43. Donkey Kong says:

    Everyone has their likes

  44. Arclucius Maximus says:

    Internet virgins lol subscribe to hot babe Live stream 😂😂😂

  45. softly says:

    maybe this sounds dumb..but wouldn't the large user participation for apps/sites like wechat, baidu, etc. just have to do with the fact that china has a large population? bc these apps aren't popular in the west right? (idk about other places. are they popular in the east outside of china?) bc despite the large populationi in china that uses these sites (baidu for example) I feel like google is probably still more popular / bigger internationally? does that make any sense??

  46. mikki mikke says:

    humanity's future looking great

  47. Hayley’s Comet says:

    I wonder if I can do stuff like this outside of China as a foreigner. Like could it help my career as an actor and singer??

  48. Shafer Hart says:

    Advertisement

  49. Thats Right says:

    Ridiculous

  50. Ray Mak says:

    You're the most handsome to every guy. Hehehe

  51. Maui Caui says:

    Cutesy Streaming = Mindless internet garbage

  52. Abhishek Gupta says:

    No

  53. T306 41 says:

    just as toxic as here in murica

  54. Doogie Chen says:

    Are advertised how Great is CCP China.???,how about YouTube

  55. DreamsComeTrue says:

    Who is getting rich on Live Me? Not even possible.

  56. Khá Lửng says:

    Earn as much as $10000 a month. Alright they do far better than the majority of people in the comments section. Keep whining while you can let's see how that work out for you

  57. Gringo Sinting says:

    China isn't the only one that is opaque on what they do with consumers' data, the US is the same too. Facebook basically auctioned their customers' data to Cambridge Analytica without consumers' knowledge.

  58. nathan ma says:

    The 2million annual income earner is only the very little top of the group. They just market the whole industry gloriously.

  59. Jeff Greenwade says:

    That is horrific culture. Isolating people into asocial internet bubbles where lonely people spend more and more time. A driving force is probably the gender imbalance. Lonely guys have no options so they socialize with internet girls. People need to socialize in person with friends. They should not be desperately sending money to a mirage or a siren.

  60. Jeff Greenwade says:

    "Innovation doesn't require the free flow of ideas."
    Lol, that is incredibly wrong. Any innovation that comes from restricted societies is in spite of that restriction, and it would be more prominent without the restrictions. Part of that "innovation" comes from stolen intellectual property from free societies. 🤦‍♂️ Yea.. America doesn't want that "culture" imported.

  61. ReasonableRadio says:

    "what is going to look like when our digital lives are made in China too" well it's going to be pretty hard to find a map of Taiwan or episodes of Winnie the Pooh

  62. Exalaxy X says:

    Girl! You don't have to beg to subscribe to a channel if the channel is great!

  63. pasta poodle says:

    Change in ways we can't see… TikTok!

  64. D says:

    Chinese girls look so ugly

  65. DANNY Gamer Z says:

    Not yet accepted in the west??Gaming streamers am i a joke to you

  66. JanoschNr1 says:

    Dis-gus-ting " a real job "

  67. vector b says:

    so weird ….worry about the future ….it is not just about money

  68. magmiy says:

    have you never heard of twitch?

  69. diego Fernandes says:

    I don't see that in a bad way. We just have some difficulty adapting to technology

  70. Puiz says:

    Am I watching an episode of black mirror?

  71. Dr. D4nk memes says:

    Tik Tok was only the beginning

  72. Kaj Te Briga says:

    Why would I watch a bunch of nobodies on live stream?

  73. Clive Baumann says:

    what an interesting and varied life they must have, sitting inside an isolating room for hour upon hour, not exercising nor interacting with the real world. Psychologists are going to be fully booked for a long time to come helping these streamers come to deal with the real world some day when they can manage to break themselves away from a phone, come to think of it, so will optometrists!

  74. books from Windblown says:

    The 2010s is dominated by internet and smartphone tech or social media technology

  75. Cadi Levox says:

    It's basically twitch but for everything.
    I saw a live streamer rock climbing once.
    I saw a live stream of a dog trainer talking about tips, and the people who tips the dog trainer get to ask very specific questions.
    I saw a live stream of a $200000 ornamental fish.
    It's not a bad idea.
    But fuckn hell, people are so sad and lonely there's actually a market for virtual companionship.

  76. Red Laser says:

    Black mirror is coming!!

  77. Liya Tang says:

    It means we are slowly turned away from reality and stuck in the world of digital society. More of introvert life.

  78. krzeszewski says:

    no… is promotion of stupidity.

  79. Sudeep Ambati says:

    i'm only 24 yet i feel i cant comprehend these trends, too old for this already i guess

  80. Dutch says:

    So China blocked things that people want to talk about

  81. jack will says:

    COPYING IS NOT INNOVATION.
    And do you know anything about cultural difference?

  82. Xinyi Zhu says:

    这个视频从商业角度dig的可以,但是我觉得从心理角度可以再挖掘一下,我从来不看直播,最近因为工作需要点开了李佳琪的直播间,我觉得他的直播真的很厉害,希望quartz可以做一期有关淘宝直播的视频

  83. chess747 says:

    Theirs nothing special about this, China just has the population that’s it, hence all the big money, being thrown about, at these start ups, and we the west will never be allowed to run free in China, and if you or big conglomerates think they can, their delusional.

  84. maye says:

    A lot of people seem worried about the popularity of these apps…but doesn't that actually mean things will probably be ok?

  85. Vtmb2 coming 2020 says:

    We are selling the “human experience” to people instead of letting they make us their own experience. It’s very sad, it’s happening on a global scale, monetizing relationships, emotions and feelings.

  86. kirbysomething says:

    Stream culture already exists in the west though, most youtubers have a platform on twitch and you have people paying belle delphine 4K a month on patreon alone which shows how much people are willing to invest in these online personalities

  87. Abhishek Tripathi says:

    as if our data is secured anyways

  88. DanDan The Pieman says:

    Guo Wei is the coolest Chinese name ever

  89. Wanting Wei says:

    As a matter of fact, Google has never beat Baidu in market share in China….

  90. Siudaloo says:

    So Communist!!

  91. Marc Duchamp says:

    Hey I am caged and ready to be watched

  92. Marc Duchamp says:

    Why don’t they let people watch their politicians livestream and see the things they do behind the doors?

  93. Marc Duchamp says:

    Live streaming is nothing new. Either is it a innovation

  94. crystalidx says:

    People are getting lazier everyday…

  95. big hanh says:

    Too much dudes on live me

  96. Joan says:

    its like twitch but for normies

  97. gagan deep singh talwar says:

    How is this entertaining?how is this fun?who is sending gifts?chinese are dumb..i fail to understand just like all social media websites..watever happened to the real fun in meeting people face to face,hanging out etc..

  98. link says:

    this is just sad

  99. Car Fan says:

    0:37 that anime girl is a lesbian.

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