Month: July 2021

People’s Republic of Desire

michaela shales

Financial Transactions in Digital Asia

People’s Republic of Desire is a film produced by Hao Wu and released in 2018. It portrays the lives of live streaming hosts on the Chinese platform YY. This popular platform is China’s video-based version of social media, as of 2018 it has over 300 million users. Hallanan (2018) admits that “It’s a massive business, and live streaming is an important part of this revolution”. 

The film relates to the subtheme of financial transactions in Asia, as “China has been one of the most extensive adopters of digital payment platforms, becoming a world leader in the span of a few years” (Antique, 2019). There is a virtual currency that users can earn by live streaming karaoke, dancing or interacting with their fans. This money is then converted into real currency.

One of the most prominent aspects of the film that stood out to me was…

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People’s Republic of Desire — Establishing Emily

An auto-ethnographic analysis of People’s Republic of Desire (2018) People’s Republic of Desire (2018) is a documentary following two live streamers, Shen Man and Big Li, on Chinese platform YY, as they fight to become the number one. These live streamers exist in a world that is unimaginable for most people, with an unthinkable amount […]

People’s Republic of Desire — Establishing Emily

Asia in the Digital Age: People’s Republic of Desire

Film: People’s Republic of Desire (Hao Wu, 2018).

The film ‘People’s Republic of Desire’ directed by Hao Wu, focuses on China’s live streaming culture, specifically one of China’s leading streaming platforms – ‘YY’. The film centres around three live streamers who seek fame, money and ultimately a genuine desire for human connection.

Statistics claim that 433 million Chinese watch live streaming – generating $4.4billion in revenue in 2018 (Turan, 2018). Viewers log in to watch various hosts entertain them through a variety of means. Annual competitions are held to see who is the most popular host. To support their favourite hosts, fans must donate money. 

The concept is quite unsettling and the amount of money being thrown around seems rather absurd. It appears that both the host and viewer are seeking a sense of connection and this is achieved through money… whether that be giving or receiving.

Despite the desire for human connection, ‘People’s Republics of Desire’ ultimately highlights the harsh reality of social isolation that comes with China’s live streaming culture. The contrast between the expected connection provided through technology and the stark isolation that hides within.

The hosts seem to share similar socioeconomic backgrounds and have the intention of using the money they receive from their fans to support their families. Watching these hosts is rather sad – it appears they are exhausted and unhappy both online and offline. Hosts compete with one another taking any means possible to achieve support – regardless of how authentic this support really is.

China’s live streaming culture serves to enrich those who utilise their platforms. Shockingly, during the films conclusion it is stated that 60% of profits generated through the streaming platform goes to YY – whilst the host and agencies share the 30-40%.

Digital Asia in China and the film ‘People’s Republic of Desire’ provides a glimpse into a future that blurs the lines between online and offline. 


Turnan, K. (2018). ‘Review: The sassy documentary ‘People’s Republic of Desire’ captures China’s mania for live streaming.’ Los Angeles Times. Available at:

Connecting through livestreams and transactions


Digital Asia

Digital financial transactions

Digital Asia – Digital financial transactions

When watching the documentary directed by Hao Wu in 2018, ‘People’s Republic of Desire’, I was enlightened by the advanced system of digital financial transactions within Asia. Through this documentary’s exploration of the media industry of livestreaming I discovered the complexities involved between the live-streamer, their audience and the digital currencies that drives the connection between them. Although a lot of live-streamers do have a passion for their job of livestreaming and connect with their audience, it is hard to ignore the substantial amount of money rewarded for this online profession. With this recognition, it makes one question whether the intentions of these live streamers are driven by money.

Athique and Baulch express that the global market in Asia consists of lightning speed transactions of purely electronic money (2019, p. 11). Also, these transactions imply changes not only to…

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People’s Republic of Desire Week 1

Film: People’s Republic of Desire (Hao Wu, 2018).

The film ‘People’s Republic of Desire’ directed by Hao Wu, explores the popular digital universe of live streaming in China. The documentary follows the journey of three young performers who earn as much as $150,000 per month by entertaining millions of people on the online platform ‘YY,’  through talk shows, singing or dancing. An annual competition is held to see who is the #1 creator and fans must vote for their favourite host by donating money. 

According to the China Network Performance Industry Associations 2020 Report, 617 million people were using live streaming platforms in China, accounting for 62.4% of all internet users in China. Furthermore the number of live streamers exceeded 130 million. The online streaming platforms seem to provide an opportunity for Chinese migrants and the working class to acquire money and stardom. The report also showed that online celebrities are idolised in China so much, that some live streamers have resorted to streaming vulgar content such as burglaries and sex acts, in a bid to capture the attention of more viewers. 

I found this documentary really interesting, as I had no idea that online streaming platforms were so popular in China. The film follows the journey of three hosts – a comedian, a singer and a migrant worker, who are all trying to earn an income to support their families.  However a common theme stood out to me, the hosts were all seeking human connection and validation and were exhausted after being subject to so much scrutiny and abuse in the public eye. I found this a good reminder that money can’t buy happiness. Host Shen May says “I feel disconnected from society. I don’t go out, or even see the sun. All I know is how to make money.” It also seems that the hosts measure their self esteem based on how popular they are as a livestreamer. Li says “People say I have nothing to prove. But I need this #1 to prove to myself, for that recognition. I don’t have any other dreams.”

Ultimately, live streaming platforms are a form of social transaction which has revolutionised the way that people interact and earn money online. However, the commodification of communication also has negative implications as seen through the documentary, such as public scrutiny, mental health issues, and hosts feeling disconnected from society and reality; which is ironically the opposite of what the platforms seek to do. 


Athique, Adrian (2019). Digital Transactions in Asia. Digital Transactions in Asia: Social , Economic and Informational Processes. (pp. 1-22) edited by Adrian Athique and Emma Baulch. New York, NY United States: Routledge

Global Times 2021, ‘China’s livestreaming industry boomed in 2020, says report,’ The Global Times, 19th May, viewed 1 August 2021, <>. 

Week #1 The People’s Republic of YY

Luke Brown

I’m sorry just give me one more year… please just one more year.

A defeated Big Li pleads to a faceless audience (The People’s Republic of Desire, 2018)

Hao Wu’s 2018 documentary The People’s Republic of Desire paints a grim picture of a new digital reality. Following a glimpse into the lives of those at the very top and bottom of the YY social scape. Wu shows us an increasingly isolated society that upon closer inspection begins to resemble its very own kind of corporate dystopia.

YY is a leading real-time video-based social network in China. During a stream users can join the audience, participate in a shared chat room, and purchase virtual tokens to gift to the host. These hosts can, in turn trade these virtual tokens for real money. As streamers become more popular, they attract greater numbers of followers, receive more gifts thus increasing the money they…

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Show me HOW MUCH you care – People’s Republic of Desire

Bees and Bells

In a time of influencers squeezing money from their fans, live streamers put them to shame. After the live screening of “People’s Republic of Desire” (2018) I’ve realised that maybe I’m in the minority as a fan…

Original Image SXSW

Right off the bat I was taken back by the interaction that take place on the social network, although technically it is not that different from Twitch. Through virtual tip jars fans can donate to their favourite streamer, earning China’s live-stream market at least $3 billion in 2016.

Yet “People’s Republic of Desire” proved the lengths fan’s were willing to go to just demonstrate their loyalty and feel noticed. Fan’s that were pictured in the documentary could be earning around $400 a month, working low-paying jobs and sleeping in a room with 6 other people, yet they were still happy to donate what little they did earn…

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Analysing ‘The People’s Republic of Desire.’ Are Human Idols Needed for the Future of Live-streaming? – Digital Asia Week 1

Emma Sloane


The People’s Republic of Desire (Hao Wu, 2018) is a documentary that follows live-streaming idols and competitions on the Chinese platform YY. To understand the social and financial transactions within ‘The People’s Republic of Desire,’ it is important to focus on one keyword, ‘desire.’

Fuelling the audiences to spend copious amounts of time and money on these platforms is their desire for the idols. Whether it be, the desire to look like these idols, to date these idols, or to be rich, and famous, and well-liked as the idols are.

“I feel like live-streaming is a mirror to a lot of people desires that are unmet in real life,’ Wu says.“A lot of the poor diaosi, they have no status in real life… If they are willing to spend just a little bit of money people will notice them. The live-streamers…

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Blog Post 1 – Live Streaming to the World

While the term digital encompasses anything with numerical digits, media refers to a method of transmitting information. Digital media can be created, viewed, distributed, modified, listened to, and preserved on a digital device, this allows for faster and more versatile communication, but can also lead to data security issues. In the expanding world of technology, peoples increasing online presence has led to the development of trends that focus highly on protecting privacy and consumer consent for example ‘Apple’ asking permission for other applications to use your data, the development of artificial intelligence and the creation of new opportunities for income. Live streaming has contributed to the development of new relationships formed between streamers and viewers in a time of isolation due to covid. Often seen as a new way to connect with people with similar interests without physically being in the same location, has led to the formation of online communities with key leaders. 

Asia dominates the online streaming industry, with over 2 million internet users from the 4.8 million users globally. As the world shuts down during a pandemic, millions have turned to live streaming as a form of income, this has evolved into the “gig economy”, with services such as Up live and Lamour being developed, increasing in popularity on a global scale. 

In this week’s seminar, we looked at Hao Wu’s People’s Republic of Desire (2018) which highlighted the concept of digital transactions, defined as online transactions that take place through an online medium, ignoring the need for tangible aspects to make a transaction. The documentary looks at the ever expanding industry of online streamers in Asia. Focusing on the lives of those who use streams as a source of income and economic benefit, providing details on the hardships and pressure put on them to be the most liked. This documentary highlighted how people were able to significantly improve their living conditions through this new source of income, emphasising the extensive opportunities they are given to obtain financial abundance and status. 

As mentioned by Athique (2019) money appears as an integer or processing unit, its value can be determined within a set of social exchanges. Financial transactions occur online and act as an agreement between the buyer and seller, in the context of online streaming this refers to the viewer/fan and the online personality. Technology gives those that are in ownership of money greater control and influence, the creation of virtual money has led to enthusiasm towards crypto currency in Asia. Leading to a significant amount of digital heists, occurring through hacking which is an issue that has evolved from digital transactions. The documentary highlights the control and influence streamers have over their audience, as well as emphasising the ease in which digital transactions occur. For example, the influencers are constantly asking for donations and purchasing votes to nominate them as the most popular, or best online personality, consumers do this as they idolise the personality and enjoy seeing people doing the things they cannot do due to financial limitations. The documentary also indicates how the fans have power over the streamers due to financial interactions. As the streamers rely on the votes and donations from their fans, the fans gain a sense of power as well, this is often shown when fans demand the streamers to do certain acts which at times are ethically questionable.


For me personally, the idea of online transactions with the context of providing live steamers with financial funds is something I would not do. Factors such as a lack of security and confidence of where the funds are going especially concern me however I can see how fans would want to support the live steamers as it is essentially paying for a form of entertainment and belonging. 


CopyPress. 2021. Digital Media: Definition and Examples. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 30 July 2021].

Smart Insights. 2021. Digital marketing trends 2021: 25 practical recommendations to implement. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 30 July 2021].

Investopedia. 2021. What Is a Digital Transaction?. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 30 July 2021].

Bray C, Qu. T, 2021. South China Morning Post, Live streaming is the gig economy of the pandemic era, Uplive says. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 30 July 2021].

Hi guys, welcome to my stream!

Digital media refers to the information that is transmitted through a digital device or screen. It is essentially any form of media that depends on an electronic device for its creation, distribution, view, and storage.

This form of media allows for the efficient transfer of information on a global scale, but data security issues pose a serious threat. Due to globalisation, this ease of communication is increasingly important as the demand for global communication is growing as the world begins to slowly open back up after Covid.

In an ever  expanding global network, the personalisation of digital media and protection of individual privacy is becoming increasingly important, there has also been a focus on artificial intelligence, consumer consent, as well as an increase in the need for mobile accessibility in recent years. This has encouraged the development of new income opportunities, live streaming has largely contributed to the development of both formal and informal relationships being formed between viewers and online personalities in a time of isolation.

Giphy// streaming

With approximately 443 million people engaging with live streams in China alone, live streams are often seen as a way for people to connect with those who have similar interests, without the restriction of physical location. This has led to the formation of online communities, with streamers often acting as key leaders with significant influence. Asia dominated the online streaming industry, with so many of the population turning to live streams to make an income during the Covid pandemic, it has led to the development of what is known as the “gig economy”.

In this week seminar, we looked at Hao Wu’s documentary, People’s Republic of Desire (2018). This text focused on the live streaming industry in China, and highlighted the concept of digital transaction that take place in the streaming industry. Digital transactions, can be broadly defined as online or automated transactions that take place between two parties without the physical exchange of tangible objects, ultimately saving time and money resulting in a more efficient process.

Giphyy// Streaming

Wu’s documentary highlights the evolving nature of online presence with a focus on online streaming in Asia, with the appearance of reputable streamers such as Big Li and Shen Man, utilising platforms such as 17 Live to stream their content as a primary source of income. This documentary also emphasises the challenges that are faced by streamers. The need to constantly stay up to date with their approach and differ themselves from competitors, streamers have an overwhelming need to remain relevant and highly ranked to maintain their income. With the threat losing everything they have worked for looming over their shoulder, the environment is evidently toxic with fans quickly moving on and finding new streamers that hold their interest. 

The idea of creating an online personality for financial gain has become a goal for many people. Wu’s documentary references the economic status of streamers, and the fact they were able to significantly improve their income stream through the establishment of an online presence and the occurrence financial transactions between themselves, sponsorships and fans. As highlighted in the documentary, the personalities are often idolised as they come from backgrounds that are similar to their viewers, creating a sense of hope that they too can build a life like their idols. Creating a culture of hope that anyone could become rich and successful like the online streamers.

Giphy// Streaming

Financial transactions have enabled the live streamers to develop an income from their online presence, with money acting as the processing unit, its value may vary depending on the social context. Financial transactions are defined as the exchange of money via online platforms, without the need for cash, often seen as a set of social exchanges between two parties, this exchange establishes a non-verbal contract.

Improvements in technology means financial transactions occur faster and are now more secure, although the increasing popularity of virtual money such as crypto has led to digital heists through hacking. As shown in the documentary, in the context of live streaming, the participants send donations and purchase votes to influencers, this in turn has a ripple effect and increases awareness of the streamer and their influence. 

Like anywhere, it is those with the money that have control and influence over those in a lower socioeconomic status. Streamers have a sense of sovereignty and authority over their audience, with some threatening their fans with their disappearance if their viewers have not voted for them or donate money to fuel their lavish lifestyle. As shown in the documentary, consumers often give into this pressure to show their loyalty and devotion to the streamers. Wu’s documentary also highlighted that many donate to streamers to see them do the things viewers could only dream of, as they live vicariously through these influencers. Although the streamers have the most power, the viewers also have an innate influence over their idols as well due to these financial transaction, with the threat of losing income, they can almost get them to do whatever they want as long as they donate.

Personally, I do not think streamers should be able to threaten their viewers for financial gain, and vice versa viewers should not be able to exploit streamers. For many they are not in the financial position to donate a significant amount of money on a regular basis and streamers are essentially exploiting those in a lower economic status for their own gain, and others pressure the streamers to do things that may be ethically wrong and humiliating. Financial transactions in a digital context does not interest me, the lack of security raises a flag about the privacy and reliability of online transactions. Although the improvements of technology is evidently beneficial for many, I am reluctant to put my money into something I do not 100% trust.


LIVE, 1., 2021. The Top 10 Live-Streaming Trends in Asia by 17LIVE–Asia’s Leading Live-Streaming Platform. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 28 July 2021].

Chaffey, D., 2021. Digital marketing trends 2021: 25 practical recommendations to implement. [online] Smart Insights. Available at: <; [Accessed 28 July 2021].

Frankenfield, J., 2021. What Is a Digital Transaction?. [online] Investopedia. Available at: <; [Accessed 28 July 2021].

The Conversation. 2021. China’s digital currency could be the future of money – but does it threaten global stability?. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 29 July 2021].