From China’s e-commerce hub Hangzhou, to the inland agricultural base of Henan Province, and even in far-off Tibet, vocational colleges across China are training young people to become professional influencers. Semesters are now spent on entry-level courses on topics such as short-video editing, social media marketing, e-commerce, and other aspects of the new “trade,” and are often taught in cooperation with industry players such as the social media platforms themselves. By offering these courses, the Chinese higher education system is now part of the driving force for the professionalization of Chinese social media influencers and is producing a large talent pool that is now pouring into the country’s flourishing digital economy. By December 16, two days before the deadline, Xu Maomao was still half way to go towards the goal of 10,000 followers. Her course instructor eventually agreed that anyone with 5,000 followers could get a 90 for the final exam, perhaps because too few had achieved the original target.
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