A 21-year-old student walked around her campus in China using invaluable skills she learned in class: Holding a selfie stick aloft, she livestreamed her random thoughts and blew kisses at her phone. Jiang Mengna is majoring in “modelling and etiquette” at Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College near Shanghai, aspiring to join the growing ranks of young Chinese cashing in on internet stardom. Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country’s 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as “wanghong” — literally hot on the web — and they now represent an industry worth billions and so big it even has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, the classrooms for Jiang and the other 33 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.
The skills taught include dressing fashionably, applying make-up, performing on camera, and knowing various luxury brands. “I like dressing myself up really pretty and take pictures. I feel like this major really suits me,” Jiang said. She spent 30 minutes at lunch musing about her day to her internet audience. She was rewarded with a quick 60 yuan in “virtual gifts” — emoticons with small digital values that comprise the main income for many aspiring wanghong, at least until they go viral. “The requests and demands for our major are rising because the e-commerce industry is developing rapidly,” said Hou Xiaonan, a dance teacher.
Wang Xin, 20, switched from accounting to a major in wanghong. “I have always had an idea, a dream to be on stage with the lights on me and the crowd watching me,” Wang said.