Practice English Speaking&Listening with: China's Factory of Ideas - Chinese internet culture exported

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For four hours every day, this 23-year-old hangs out with people on a livestream.

It's a real job that earns real money. As much as ten thousand dollars a month.

Last year, she bought an apartment in Beijing.

Livestreaming is huge in China.

It's mainstream here in a way that it isn't yet in the West. And it's more interactive than just watching a feed.

Fans vie for attention from hosts. And to get it, they spend real money on virtual gifts.

It's a multi-billion dollar industry that's soon projected to surpass China's box-office revenue.

There are tens of thousands of livestreaming celebrities.

There are even livestreaming incubators.

That's what this place is.

That's more than 2 million dollars a year, for basically talking to fans.

The Chinese livestreaming audience is the size of the entire US population.

They watch farmers, construction workers, comedians, and of course, good-looking men and women.

And whether or not you're into it, it's already coming to the West.

But this story is bigger than livestreaming.

It's about the future of the internet, courtesy of China.

I'm Isabelle Niu. This is Quartz.

Please subscribe to our channel.

- Hi, nice to meet you.

- Nice to meet you as well. Welcome.

At first glance, LiveMe looks like your regular LA tech startup. Except for one thing.

- Where are your developers?

- So, all the developers are based in Beijing.

LiveMe is a Chinese company, backed by Chinese investment, trying to bring Chinese-style livestreaming to the US.

In its first year, LiveMe earned $100 million in revenue, mostly from US users watching American livestreamers.

Like Andrea Eccardi.

The total hours I've been streaming on LiveMe could be about 2,400 hours.

This is her job. She's a full-time livestreamer in Staten Island, New York.

"You get a big reaction. Oh my gosh, another one!

That's a ton of hearts. The cool animations just make you so excited."

LiveMe wants to train an entire cohort of livestreamers like this and, really, to transform entertainment.

But LiveMe is also an example of something bigger: A shift in where tech innovations are coming from.

Guo Wei is a Chinese venture capitalist who invests in startups in both China and the US.

And he met me on a Sunday, after what must have been a very long Saturday night.

Guo Wei was in LA to visit an incubator he'd founded.

He said that, ten years ago, when he was just starting out, he would study US startups to find the next big innovation.

And now, he says the opposite is happening.

China has roughly 700 million mobile internet users, making it the largest e-commerce and mobile payment market on Earth.

As of May of 2018 four of the 10 most valuable private companies in the world are Chinese.

And that is a sign of something even bigger.

A lot of recent Silicon Valley trends did start in China.

Facebook and Apple added payment features to their messengers, following in the footsteps of WeChat, China's largest messaging app.

Meanwhile, electric scooter sharing is taking off not just in San Francisco, but in cities like LA and Washington, DC.

And the founders of those companies say their inspiration was China's dockless bike sharing.

And this shift, from exporting things to exporting ideas, happened not despite government censorship,

but, at least partly, because of it.

Starting in 1996, the Chinese government began erecting a "Great Firewall" to block out anything it didn't want its people to know.

Foreign tech companies that refused to help with censorship were gradually forced out or banned,

and China's internet became kind of like an isolated island.

"I have my Chinese phone, this is for the Chinese internet,

and then I have my foreign phone, and this for the foreign internet."

This is Elliot Zaagman. He's a consultant who helps Chinese tech companies go global.

He's worked in China for years, and he's had a front row seat to China's tech boom.

"By setting up that firewall, they've created an environment where their tech babies can grow up

to a point where they're they're big enough to do battle with the big boys in Silicon Valley."

Google left China to avoid censorship. In its place, the Chinese company Baidu has become the largest search engine in the country.

Alibaba has more sales than eBay and Amazon combined.

There's no Facebook in China, but the social messaging platform WeChat

now has a user base the size of the entire population of North and South America.

Chinese companies are already competing head-to-head with Silicon Valley titans in markets

like India, Japan, Southeast Asia, and South America.

And that success also proves something important:

That innovation doesn't actually require democracy or the free flow of ideas.

"Chinese internet companies tend to be very, very, very opaque about what they're doing with the data.

And there's two risks here.

One is that actually, a lot of the data just maybe is not secured very well.

And then the other side is the government, and the surveillance side of things."

The success of Chinese tech companies is inevitably going to change the internet

in ways we can't even foresee.

It's only just starting to play out.

Already, a lot of the things we use in our physical lives are made in China.

What's it going to look like when our digital lives are made there too?

Thanks for watching.

Are you ready to get into live streaming?

Let me know in the comments

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