The documentary “People’s Republic of Desire” directed by Hao Wu in 2018 follows the lives of two streamers, Shen Man and Big Li, on a Chinese live-streaming platform called YY. The live-streaming platform offers these streamers an opportunity to showcase their talents and talk to their fans.
“People’s Republic of Desire” portrays both streamers Big Li and Shen Man earning significant amounts of money by doing live-streams. The documentary shows the work and efforts they put in to make that amount of money. However, I found that the documentary may somehow show a wrong perspective that live-streaming does not require much effort to make money. Big Li and Shen Man are considered as the top 1% streamers in China, the money they earn does not represent the amount made by all streamers. According to Hallanan (2018), an average top streamer earns around $5,000 to $10,000 a month, while the majority of streamers within the hundreds of thousands in China, actually earn less than $1,000 a month.
Although the competitive level of live-streaming in China is high, people are still willing to enter the live-streaming industry with a lot of them still being young or in their early 20’s. This is due to the fact that a lot of them are still living in rural areas or small cities in China. In these places, job opportunities are not as much and the salary is extremely low with less than $1,000 with a high level of labor. Thus, a lot of young people are forced to leave their families behind as they head off to larger cities such as Beijing or Shanghai to find a job that can earn enough to support themselves and their families. Live-streaming does not only give them an opportunity to make more money but also allows people to work from home and face much fewer hardships in a different city. In addition, the rise in popularity of social media production such as live-streaming and content creation gives streamers the flexibility and freedom they cannot find in other traditional jobs. According to Athique, “As a new form of work, social media production fits neatly into a regional labour market long characterized by piecework, mobility and precarity” (2019).
Overall, the documentary gives me an understanding of why people are obsessed with the live-streaming industry and are willing to spend countless hours live-streaming and interacting with their fans. The opportunity of making money and succeeding, while enjoying the creative nature of the job is what drives them the most.
Arthique, Adrian (2019). ‘Digital Transactions in Asia: Social, Economic and Informational Processes’, New York, NY United States; Routledge, pp.1-22.
Hallanan, L., 2018. ‘The People’s Republic Of Desire’: Truths And Half-Truths About China’s Live Streaming. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurenhallanan/2018/12/12/the-peoples-republic-of-desire-truths-and-half-truths-about-chinas-live-streaming/?sh=60fe71742e90> [Accessed 28 July 2021].