At a venue in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district, ahead of the recent finals of talent show Produce 101, thousands of excited fans jostle each other as they wave banners and glow sticks, chanting the names of their favorite contestants.
Produce 101 is a South Korean reality TV franchise that has expanded to China and two other Asian countries.
Airing on a video platform of Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, the show aims to select 11 winners from the original 101 contestants to form an all-female band, based on the number of public votes they receive.
Talent shows like these are not just about the onstage battle between performers-the rivalry remains fierce offstage among fans alike.
类似的选秀节目不光是练习生们在场上的比拼 —— 场下粉丝们之间的竞争也很激烈。
The program’s producer Ma Yankun says unlike conventional entertainers, the popular contestants on the show always have huge following: "Where there’s an idol, there are always fans."
Shi Hui, a 24-year-old office worker based in Shanghai, traveled to the Hangzhou studios in East China’s Zhejiang province to promote her idol Meng Meiqi by erecting digital billboards, portable display boards and large posters of Meng.
The money Shi used for the promotion was collected from Meng’s fans who openly raised funds totaling more than 12 million yuan ($1.8 million) in the past three months. Shi spent over 10,000 yuan in votes for Meng.
"I want her to stand in the center of the final group this time," says Shi, adding that Meng’s unassuming look reflects her "say less, do more" approach.
Another fan Li Qiying, a graduate from Tongji University says she never supported a star before Wang Ju, another contestant on the show.
"At first, it was Wang’s powerful performance that appealed to me," Li says. "Later, I stood by her because of her views on women’s independence and diversity in beauty, as well as her individuality."
"Her message in the show struck a chord with me and inspired her fans to be more confident."
Li serves as the leader of Wang’s biggest fan club, where each of its six groups performs its own functions-such as design work, voting, writing and photography.
李琦颖是王菊最大的粉丝后援会会长，后援会中的6个小组各有分工 —— 如设计、拉票、写稿以及摄影。
Li says they have students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in the club, who have designed products like bags, phone covers and T-shirts.
"We sell them for money to support Wang instead of always asking her followers to raise funds, which is a more sustainable way to develop the club."
Xu Miaomiao, a research associate from the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences says fans these days are better educated and have more disposable cash-which has fueled their "upgrading power".