Live-streaming out of poverty: How the internet helps poor Chinese
By Gong Zhe

China is trying to become an "all-round well-off" place next year. Obviously, this means leaving no one behind in poverty.

The Chinese government is looking for every possible way to give poor people chances to prosper. And the internet is a working tool.

In 2018, the IT ministry announced a plan to cover 98% of poor areas with the internet by 2020. It achieved the goal in August 2019.  

Only half of the world population has internet access.

Optical fibers and 4G signals are the two most common ways to bring the poor online. Unlike ADSL and satellite networks, these are fast, responsive network connections that work almost the same as the richest places in the country. As the People's Daily reported, the average network speed in China's rural areas exceeded 70 Mbps, very similar to China's cities.

So how can people get out of poverty via the internet?

Live-streaming rural life has become a viable option. China is obsessed with live-streaming and short video apps like Tik Tok, with more than 87.5% of internet users watching them – that's 648 million people.

The business model is quite simple: using online videos of rural life to attract audiences, and then sneaking ads in them to generate revenue. They often advertise their own agricultural products. This is known in the country as "daihuo" or "sneaking goods."

Of course, one has to create fascinating videos to make this model work. Click here to see two success stories.

One of the most famous rural internet celebrities is Xu Huasheng, who was born in the 90s in the mountainous village of Hezhou. He has more than 50 million fans on the Kuaishou video platform, generating more than 10,000 U.S. dollars in revenue with a single video stream.

"I don't shy away from admitting my love for noisy car engines. That's why I bought my Maserati," Xu told his fans straightforwardly.

Xinhua summarized two main reasons the attraction of rural videos: the homesickness of rural people who became city residents during China's massive urbanization projects, and the curiosity of Generation Z born and raised in cities, many of whom have never been into the countryside.

Without the internet, Xu might have been a nobody growing beans. But the network has brought him the freedom and equality to compete and prosper with everyone else on the video platform.