Fisherman in China hooks audience via livestreaming

On a dock at Baiyangdian Lake, Shao Xiaobei starts a live-stream broadcast on his phone on Tuesday using several smartphones.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

Standing on a dock at Baiyangdian Lake and holding three smart phones in front, Shao Xiaobei started livestreaming on Tuesday.

The 48-year-old wanted to show his 6,000 fans that many visitors had arrived at his hometown, Shaozhuangzi village in Xiong'an New Area of Hebei province. He wore a gray short-sleeved shirt, leaving his arms, face and neck exposed to the sunshine.

Life had changed since Shao, a native fisherman, became a host on livestreaming platforms like Kuaishou three years ago.

"Before livestreaming, I mainly attracted tourists via WeChat by posting pictures of Baiyangdian. But it was not as good as the live-streaming," he said.

China announced plans to set up the Xiong'an New Area in April 2017. It would take on Beijing's functions that are not essential to its role as the national capital and would receive some of the capital's colleges, hospitals, business headquarters and financial and public institutions.

Lotus thrives at Baiyangdian Lake.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

Baiyangdian Lake covers 366 square kilometres. Shaozhuangzi village, where Shao was born and currently lives, is at its centre and surrounded by water.

With only three years of schooling as a child, Shao once knew few Chinese characters. "I have learned many characters since I started livestreaming," he said.

He learned how to use livestream apps on a smart phone from two villagers who were the first in the village to try it.

"I mainly show the beautiful scenery of Baiyangdian to my fans while rowing a boat on the lake because the lake has changed a lot in recent years," he said.

He now has more than 6,000 fans on Kuaishou. He rows for about two hours each day.

The environment has improved greatly for Baiyangdian Lake. "Days with blue sky are increasing, and more residents, including me, have begun to swim in the lake again," Shao said.

The lake was long known for its ecological beauty, clean water and varieties of aquatic species. But it was polluted by industry and domestic wastewater in past decades.

Clouds gather over Baiyangdian Lake in Xiong'an New Area on Tuesday, just before it rained.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

In recent years, measures to clean it up have been enhanced. Some companies have been shut down and wastewater from households is usually handled at sewage treatment facilities.

Before adopting his new job as a livestream host, Shao earned a living by fishing. His income was not stable. He said that compared with other hosts who are young and eloquent, his livestream falls short. He is old and doesn't know much of the popular internet slang.

Even so, he earns about 100,000 yuan (S$2,000) per year, mainly in July and August, the busiest tourist season for the lake. The income was more than double what he could earn by fishing.

His fans call him "Laotie" — a name often applied to online hosts. It means a good buddy. "I can also cook delicious fish," Shao said, noting that he had been a fisherman since he was 18 years old.

Shao has a restaurant that serves tourists, with a menu that includes fish and shrimp. He also functions as a local tour guide, taking customers on his boat to show them around. He tells folk stories that include bits of local culture, including the name and history of different small lakes.

"Normally on weekends I receive more than 10 groups of tourists a day, but about six or seven on weekdays," he said.

"I am much happier being an internet host than being a fisherman, because I meet a lot of people from different places in the country," Shao said. His tourists are mainly from neighboring Beijing, Tianjin and cities in Hebei province.

Over the past three years, more than 20 villagers have followed Shao's livestreaming example, broadcasting the beauty of Baiyangdian Lake, attracting tourists and providing accommodations, food and tour services.

He suggested installing neon lights around the lake to increase the beautiful evening scenery in the future, because "people would like to spend more nights here".