November 4, 2016, by Tony Hong

Zhibo – The New Trend of Live-Streaming

By Tony Hong,

PhD Candidate from the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, UNNC.

I had a strange request asked of me a few days ago while working in my office – “You need to watch this guy! He’s hilarious!” Expecting to see a short humorous video, I was instead treated to some guy attempting to make jokes while eating his lunch. This is my first and probably last encounter with the phenomenon of live-streaming (zhibo) in China. Needless, to say the guy wasn’t that funny and was also a distraction from my own daily digest of Youtube videos and Twitter posts. China’s own homegrown social media is being taken over by zhibo. Live-streaming seems to be the latest craze that has struck the young and tech savvy Chinese. There are literally hundreds of domestic apps such as Douyu, YY and Yingke that provide this service. According to CCTV, who quoted a recent survey:

‘30%-40% of the broadcasters are students, 77% of the viewership was from male users.’

The popularity of live-streaming has also made it into a money making enterprise . The most popular stars are watched by millions and they have effectively become internet celebrities. If you’re a fan and you want to express your appreciation, you can send them cute little virtual stickers for a price.

So how do you broadcast yourself and win millions of adoring fans? Well, apparently you just have to talk about your daily life, review products or movies, play video games for your fans or do an innumerable amount of other activities. This is what passes off as entertainment for Chinese millennials these days. However, it must be said that the most popular form of entertainment available on live-streaming platforms are young women flirting live and acting seductively for their fans.

One trend that was quickly noticed by the authorities were live streams of young women eating fruit in an inappropriate manner. To deal with inappropriate content, the Cyber Administration of China (CAC) issued guidelines on user content. As is normally done in China, this content management has been delegated to the companies that own the platforms. It is their responsibility to ensure that content meets certain guidelines. The BBC reports that the CAC has asked these platforms to:

‘”strengthen security evaluation of new products like live broadcast”. It also said the new requirements would apply to “bullet-screens” – where online user comments pop-up on top of live videos.’

Such measures by the CAC are done in order to protect social morality. Now, there is a full list of regulations concerning live-streaming, which is to be implemented from December 1st.

“Online live streaming has grown rapidly, but some streaming platforms have been found to disseminate pornography, violence, rumors and fraud, which run counter to socialist core values and adversely affect young people, a CAC official said” as quoted by the China daily.

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