Rise of a ‘King’

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/24 19:05:26

Web celebrity goes from binge drinking to ‘image ambassador’ for Chinese farmers

Liu Shichao takes a selfie. Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

Liu Shichao, better known by his internet handle Hebei Pangzai (Hebei Fat Man), has more than 130,000 followers on Twitter. Beginning his rise to fame with videos showing him binge drinking, the internet star has gradually shifted his content to sharing the daily life in Chinese rural areas with his fans around the world.

"I will continue to upload short videos about drinking on social media to meet my fans' expectations, but more videos will reflect my village life," Liu told the Global Times. 

"If I have enough funds in the future, I plan to go across China to shoot a variety of choice Chinese dishes for overseas netizens."

During the interview with Liu, he showed lots of interest in cooking. 

"My plan is to spread Chinese culinary culture around the world," he said. 

Although Liu didn't even know what Twitter was several months ago, he now has come to realize the power of social media and his own influence on the platform.

Who is Liu Shichao?

Liu, 34, calls himself an ordinary Chinese farmer, but he is called "King" by his fans on Twitter. He lives in the village of Xingtai, North China's Hebei Province, a typical northern Chinese village, with large tracts of farmland and large single-story homes all right next to each other.

Liu said that he dropped out of middle school since "I did not like studying and felt it was too boring." 

After quitting school, Liu started working at construction sites.

"At first, I did not have any skills so I could only move bricks as a laborer. Then I learned how to electro gas weld and got paid more," he recalled.

Construction worker is only one of the jobs that Liu has held over the years. He also worked in a meat processing plant in 2004. 

"I had to stand beside a huge oven and the indoor temperature was above 40 C. My daily salary was 10 yuan ($1.40) at the time," he noted.

Liu filmed his first video, in which he downs seven bottles of beer in just 50 seconds, three years ago after opening a buffet restaurant. He uploaded the video on Kuaishou, one of China's short video platforms, where it became a hit.

At his peak, Liu had 470,000 followers on the platform and was earning up to 10,000 yuan a month from tips given by netizens.

"Making short videos is better than any other jobs I have ever had," he said. 

Liu cooks in his kitchen. Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

Rise to fame

Liu was told that his videos had gone viral on Twitter back in August. At the time he didn't even know what Twitter was. Along with his younger brother, who makes short fitness videos, Liu researched the social media platform for three days before finally registering an account.

Liu's tornado-like drinking style astonished overseas netizens, who started to call him the "King" of drinking. 

"More than 10,000 netizens followed my Twitter account in one day, which is my record," Liu said.

Since then, he has been interviewed by media both at home and abroad, including the BBC, Reuters and the South China Morning Post, almost every week. 

The Chinese farmer has even made some foreign friends through his videos. Some of his fans have volunteered to help him edit English content since his language skills in this area are poor. One student from the US also asked to practice Chinese with him on WeChat.

Looking to expand his fan base, Liu has been researching what type of content netizens like to watch.

He surprisingly found that the reactions to videos about his daily life around the village were overwhelmingly positive. When Liu is with his families in the videos, most netizens send their best wishes to these members in the comments.

"My family consists of four generations under one roof. I think my overseas fans are envious when they see the love and harmony in our family," Liu said, noting he wants to show more people this side of life in China. 

As binge drinking is bad for his health, Liu's wife and other family members strongly object to him continuing to shoot such videos. 

"We quarreled for this reason several times, and now I have cut back on making drinking videos and show more about my pastoral life," Liu explained.

Liu wants to build a professional group to make short videos and run social media accounts in the future, and his brother also believes that if they work together as a group, they will be able to produce better quality videos.

Liu and his brother are the epitome of young people living in Chinese rural areas, who spend lots of time on short video platforms each day, whether watching or posting videos.

"This is an age of short video and live streaming in China," Liu said.

As it stands now, Liu seems to be enjoying his fame on Twitter.

 "I read comments under videos and try to interact with them. There are also bad comments, but I don't care. I think I can change these opposing minds through sincerely talking with them," he said.


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