Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Older Chinese jumping on live-streaming bandwagon

AFP, BEIJING

Retiree Wang Jinxiang live-streams a performance outside the Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing on Dec. 26 last year.

Photo: AFP

In public squares across China, it is not unusual to see retirees practicing dance, taichi, or even singing.

Wang Jinxiang (王金香) is no different — except she live streams her performances to an online audience of thousands. The 62-year-old is among a legion of senior citizens trying to make a name for themselves in China’s massive social media scene, a world usually populated by the young.

Undeterred by the frosty winter, Wang put on a show in a square by the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.

“Which song do you want to listen next?” she asked her 23,000 followers as she delivered an hour-long special.

She began this hobby after her nephew’s teacher showed her the online singing platform Quan Min Karaoke two years ago. She immediately fell in love.

“When I first started live streaming, I was faced with a lot of issues that were very troublesome. I was not that good at handling the technical things on the smartphone,” she said.

Wang feels she has found an outlet to express herself and now spends two hours every other day of the week singing and performing live fashion shows.

Fans send her virtual gifts that can later be redeemed as cash — China has a wealth of payment apps and social media platforms that allow people to exchange money.

“Quan Min Karaoke allows the elderly to exercise at home, sing better and show themselves on it,” she said. “I am constantly thinking of new things to do everyday, what new tricks I can do for tomorrow to attract and entertain everyone.”

China’s Internet is heavily censored by Chinese Communist Party authorities, but it nonetheless has an abundance of bloggers and vloggers.

The relative freedom of streaming content live has meant the industry is booming — Deloitte estimated revenues of US$4.4 billion last year, up 32 percent from 2017 — with scores of platforms allowing people to share their skills, views or the mundaneness of ordinary life.

As well as the usual beauty reviewers and aspiring comedians, live streaming can bring about unlikely stars.

Last year a corn farmer from a remote cliff-top village became an online sensation by showcasing his daily activites, and in 2017, an elderly couple, one of whom had Alzheimer’s, gained millions of online fans simply by answering questions from the public.

In a rapidly ageing nation — by 2050, one in three people in China, or 487 million people, will be over the age of 60, according to the Xinhua news agency — the Internet has become a sort of fountain of youth for those who want their talents immortalised.

Wang, whose main audience is over the age of 60, has seen more and more older people connect with her online.

“I have hope that people will be more brave. It requires us elderly people to be more active, to use our time better and have a better time,” she said, adding: “Old people should cherish and make the best of their time left.”

Streaming might be an enjoyable pastime for many, but the Internet can still be a dark place, warned Wang Kelan, who live streams her song and dance performances from the small city of Yuncheng in Shanxi Province.

The 72-year-old has endured cyber-bullying from online followers who ridicule her shows.

“Society is actually unfair to the elderly nowadays,” said Wang Kelan, who is not related to Wang Jinxiang.

“They said it was shameful to do live streaming at such an old age,” she said, although she insisted that her love for the Internet outshines the toxic comments.

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