When we started 2018, we asked our readers what questions they want answered – and we promised to answer them. For the next few weeks, we will have a series of articles addressing these issues.

In this episode, we will answer “Why is it that China has so many portals where people pay money to ask questions, whereas in the West, everything is free?”

Well, first of all, we think the question is comparing different things. In the west, not everything is free. Just look at the following:

The point is – people are looking for answers from trusted figures, and their time is precious.

I think the ‘everything is free’ part is probably referring to the formidable job of Google & Wikipedia (and a few others) into making good quality information easily available.

In China unfortunately you have Baidu:

Search for “coco” on both sites and the results are..…

Of course, there is good source of content and knowledge in China as well, such as at Zhihu, the equivalent of Quora in China:

Zhihu is full of good content that is indexed and searchable, quite often created by volunteers who are actually experts in specific subject matter.

The problem is, though, Zhihu is not enough. People want to learn more – because they are anxious.

The society is transforming fast – and some of the obvious opportunities have already been seized, resulting in newly minted billionaires and multi-millionaires. Many people have become middle class over the past decade.

However, for middle class to move up, it has become increasingly difficult. They are also challenged with pollution, food safety and rising house prices. Also the fierce competition in all areas of society are pushing individuals to really try their best to enrich themselves, in all means.

And learning (new knowledge) has become a way. People listen to Himalaya FM, Luogic talkshow; they read (and share) all articles published on WeChat; and they pay for content that is deemed as privileged.

It is to be honest a bit difficult to understand this psyche unless you are Mainland Chinese – we have four people at the Momentum Works team who are exactly from that group. (Though for whatever reason they seem to be not anxious, but actually quite jolly).

This is similar to why self help books became so popular in the US many years ago (well for some they still are):

And a difference in China? They have WeChat Pay, which allows them to pay for something without the pain of physical money actually departing from you (or the indirect feeling of the same when you hand over your credit card).

Of course, like any trend, paying for knowledge will recede. People will realise that on many occasions paying for knowledge did not actually make them smarter or alleviate their anxiety (it just perpetuates it).

So the market will go to normal pretty soon, we think.

Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at hello@mworks.asia and let us know how we can help.

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