Profile: The migrant worker with an audience of millions

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by Xinhua writers Zhao Chenjie, Cao Bin

CHENGDU, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Like many other migrant workers on construction sites, He Chuan mixes concrete and lays bricks throughout the day. Unlike most, however, he has taken the trouble to document elements of his daily life through live-streaming. Adopting the online name "Brother Chuan", he has gained considerable online celebrity.

Hailing from Dazhou in southwest China's Sichuan Province, He, 52, has spent many years as a migrant worker on building sites around China. He is not alone in this, with 25 million Sichuan farmers leaving the fields for city jobs across the country.

Now back in his hometown, He continues to intersperse his construction work with vlogging, setting up his camera to live-stream his lunch breaks before an audience of hundreds, sometimes thousands. His wife Tang Wenshu partners up with him during the sessions, which mostly revolve around the food they are eating and comments on construction work.

In one typical session, "Brother Chuan" can be seen serving his wife a bowl of rice and then wolfing down the rest from the rice cooker. Finally, he displays a piece of crispy griddled chicken, making many of his viewers drool.


Without any professional camera or technical training, the couple have recorded their simple daily life since 2018, drawing nearly 2 million followers on social media platforms with over 1,000 vlogs.

"Although I'm neither handsome nor knowledgeable, I am optimistic and love working," said He, who has worked in construction for around 30 years.

The couple's "studios" are always situated in buildings under construction. With bricks as chairs and storage boxes as tables, the two sweaty faces are always seen laughing and gobbling yummy food in front of the camera.

He said he is happy that viewers appreciate his attitude to life and how construction work has paid off.

"Being recognized and learning new things from comments have driven me to share more," He said.


"I was nervous about live-streaming on camera initially," he said. However, his followers, the majority of whom are migrant workers and students, give him great support.

From the online comments and private messages delivered to his mailboxes, He has found that viewers are mostly inspired by his devotion to work, as well as caring about his quality of life.

His hard work received wider recognition in 2021 when he was given a vlogging award by Xigua Video, a video sharing platform. In his acceptance speech for "The Best Moment" award, he said, "If you once drew strength from my company, I hope you can hang in there for a little bit longer, and eventually overcome frustration and difficulties."

Live-streams of "Brother Chuan" also create a platform where migrant workers can discuss topics that they care about, such as wage calculation, safety measures and retirement.

"It is safer for aged workers to stop working at heights and leave construction sites, but their livelihoods should be taken into consideration," He said when chatting with his wife during a vlog discussing the welfare of aged migrant workers.

Empowered by digital tools, migrant workers like He are making their voices heard and their lives more visible to wider audiences.


Plastering brings the couple 600 yuan (about 89 U.S. dollars) per day, while He's new craft, vlogging, yields him 200 yuan per piece on average, contributing more to their household income than construction work.

He started as a plastering apprentice decades back. Along with the rapid development of China's coastal regions, He and Tang joined the migration stream to seek a fortune in east China's Fujian Province in 2003.

The couple dwelled in a 10-square-meter temporary shed and worked on scaffolds high above the ground for years, joining the construction of soaring skyscrapers and modern venues.

As urbanization in western China has accelerated, the couple returned to their hometown of Dazhou in 2019 and are currently working on a construction site for a digital-economy industrial park.

The couple have bought their riverside three-bedroom apartment in Dazhou and live with their two children. The elder son He Songlin edits videos and manages accounts for his father, while the younger son is studying in middle school.

In a vlog recorded at their apartment, He handed his younger son a slice of cake and said, "Happy birthday, and I hope you go to the university of your choice." Tang also presented gifts to the boy.

This modest family scene moved many viewers, who posted comments expressing their appreciation.


According to China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the number of migrant workers in the country reached 292.51 million in 2021, and their average monthly income has risen to 4,432 yuan, exceeding the national average of 2,927 yuan.

Last week, the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council jointly issued a document stating that migrant workers will receive better support at the county level with regard to various public services, including housing, professional training, children's education, pensions and medical care.

Among the countless fancy buildings that He has worked on, he likes building schools the most. Recently, he participated in the construction of a local vocational college. Seeing young people playing basketball on the playground he built, He said he was more than satisfied.

His account profile on one short-video platform sums up the vlogger's constructive attitude: "I work hard to earn money to support my family, and contribute to the construction of our country." Enditem

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