(Some photos of this article may be concerning, thus viewer discretion advised)
For fellow China hands or observers, you may be familiar with Wechat, QQ or weibo, but have you heard of GIF Kuaishou(Kwai or 快手，literally means “fast hand” in Chinese)? GIF Kuaishou is a simple gif app in China where typical “post-90s” younger generation posted short videos (maximum length of 17 seconds) of themselves on the app. To one’s surprise, it is one of the most heavily used apps in rural China. During the past few days, an article on some of the explicit contents of this app went viral on the internet, as it displayed the hidden psyche or facts that one wouldn’t ever understand if living in major urban areas in China.
The article named “Cruel grass root phenomenon – snapshot of China rural regions via a video app” went viral on the internet during the past week as it revealed the hidden facts of rural Chinese psyche. The article first revealed facts that GIF Kuaishou was in fact the no.4 app in China behind wechat, qq and weibo, despite its relative unknown status. Its MAU reached a staggering 184 million in March this year.
(Astonishingly, Kuaishou occupied 5% of the overall mobile traffic in 2015)
The article attributed the rise of this app to its wide popularity among rural population and depicted it as “vulgar and crudely made”. Most importantly, the photo excerpted from the app was quite explicit and even revolting to a certain extent.
While the images have already been quite distorted, the article carried on depicting some self-abusing actions people were undertaking, such as eating lightbulbs and bugs, even using firecrackers under their “nuts”. There were folks who drank Maotai like water, just to show off their “capabilities”. The insanity shown here was staggering.
The article came up with a plausible explanation for these bizarre uploaders- they needed attention and their only channel of increasing exposure was via self-abuse. Also, if they became popular online, they might able to do some commercials and make a living. But the article also went further to some of the kids who dropped out of school and were only focused on getting exposure on this particular app. The dropouts were fascinated by the fame, violence and quick money represented in the society and found little upward mobility via schooling.
There were of course other forms of “performing arts” within the rural internet space. MC Tianyou was one of the rappers that echoed the deeper minds of grassroots, as he wrote in one of his lyrics:” A lot of the stuffs have been changed by money, money rules everything in this society, and you girls have just exchanged wealth for your good looks.” His lyrics attracted rural population and gained more than million hits.
(MC Tianyou’s live performance)
While all these folks have found a way of expressing themselves from this app, the article concluded that no one in the city actually cares about these people. Urban and rural China were two separate circles without any intersections. The rural population has little hope to gain access to resources, not to mention social mobility. They are the “overlooked group”, but there are more than 600 million of them in the Chinese society. Isn’t this concerning?
Meanwhile, though this article has attracted more than millions of views, it is criticized by other media as using evidence that are circumstantial and distorted the images with regards to the rural society . In fact, some of the major voices and images on this app have already become public figures rather than being isolated by the major press. Are we focusing too much on the “difference” between urban and rural China and have forgotten the importance of finding the antidote to certain issues, such as “leftover kids” and rural education? There is much to think about on this topic.