People's Republic of Desire

In virtual showrooms, China's young people seek fame, fortune, and connection, but find the same perils and promises online as off.

Chinese karaoke singer
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
February 25, 2019
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
Diversity Development Fund
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2018 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Best Writing
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2018 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW)-Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2018 CAAM Fest-Cinematography Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2018 DocEdge Festival-Best International Director
  • Producer/Director

    Hao Wu

    Originally trained as a molecular biologist, Hao Wu traveled to the Internet world before focusing on filmmaking and writing. His documentary films have received funding support from The Ford Foundation JustFilms, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Institute, and international broadcasters. Wu is a fellow at the New America Foundation. His writing on Show more China has appeared on,, Marketplace Radio, Strait Times, and China Daily. Show less

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    The Film

    A generation of young Chinese have come of age on social media, where virtual relationships are replacing real-life human connections. Online showrooms are the most popular gathering place for hundreds of millions—attracting China’s super rich (who lavish virtual gifts on their favorite performers) and the poor, many of them migrant workers in urban areas searching for cheap entertainment and a way to feel connected. These two groups never cross paths in real life, yet in the digital universe they band together to worship online idols who earn as much as $130,000 a month singing karaoke or doing talk shows to interactive audiences.