Expected to surpass $14 billion next year, China’s internet celebrity economy has never been more lucrative.
However, the industry is not all about locals. It turns out that foreigners are also cashing in on the trade, making thousands of dollars in at least one social media platform.
One of them is David Gulasi, a 34-year-old Australian who founded an English language center in Inner Mongolia. His profession as a teacher is quite unusual for an internet celebrity, but he has attracted at least five million followers on Weibo alone.
A former standup comedian, Gulasi rose to popularity when he posted a video about a misunderstanding he had with two male students. He was surprised when the students invited him to their house “to play together.”
Gulasi understood the phrase differently and “freaked out” at the request. However, he quickly realized that the invitation was innocent.
Since then, Gulasi has managed to build an online presence, adored mostly by Chinese millennials curious about foreign culture. According to SCMP, he now sells advertising space on his Weibo page for up to $60,000. In addition, he’s free to reject sponsored content he doesn’t like.
While it’s crystal clear that the business is tempting for its monetary returns, some internet stars are hoping to use their popularity for other causes. Such is the case with Yamashita Tomohiro, a Japanese wang hong who sees his work as as a “lubricant for China-Japan relations.”
The 32-year-old has been studying in Shanghai for five years. He started uploading videos in 2015, speaking Putonghua and Japanese and sharing Japan’s culture lightheartedly among his Chinese audience.
Today, Yamashita has at least one million followers on Weibo. “The power of humour can help the two nations grow closer,” he told SCMP.
Interestingly, some foreign internet celebrities indirectly shot to stardom via outlets that interview expats for research purposes. One is the Foreigners Research Institute, a Beijing startup that surveys foreigners about their life in China and shares videos on social media.
In one of the company’s videos, an American woman was asked to share her experiences on Chinglish, after which she quickly earned 100,000 fans.
China’s internet celebrity economy made at least $7.9 billion last year.
With an audience of 730 million and growing, it’s safe to say that it will only continue to flourish.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.