Have a problem? Ask China's online agony aunts

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Do you wonder if you have a sexual addiction? Do you have any questions about the possible impact of the trade war between the US? UU And China? Or about buying a house? China's online questions and answers experts like Gu Zhongyi are at your disposal.

Gu, a nutritionist, is among the hundreds of thousands of "experts" who sell their advice on thriving Chinese Internet forums where they serve as web-based agonizing aunts.

The Chinese often have nowhere to go: the communist government's information controls, especially on sensitive issues such as commercial warfare and sex, make it difficult to obtain information, and consulting professionals in person costs too much for many people.

Last year around 10,000 questions were asked through "Wenda" (a feature on the dominant platform of Chinese social media, Weibo, where financial, health and professional experts, often self-proclaimed, make money with each response.

Weibo icon (Imaginechina through AP images)

AP

Gu quit his job as a nutritionist at a major hospital in Beijing last year to focus on Wenda, establishing himself as a type to which the masses of young mothers turn with questions about nutrition for their babies.

"I think it's more meaningful to do a job that can impact more people, Wenda is a win-win," said Gu, who complements his income online by writing pay-per-access articles, as well as books.

Many Wenda experts have accredited experts, but many more become authorities simply by attracting many followers.

They establish a rate, generally between 100-200 yuan ($ AUD20 – $ 40) per question, responding to those of their choice.

More money comes through "snooping", in which other users pay one yuan each to see the answers to the previous questions.

Driven by the ubiquitous use of mobile phone payments by China, the spying of hot topics can provide tens of thousands of yuan per response, which is divided between the questioner, the expert and Weibo.

"You need to find the time to go to a hospital or buy a book, but the time and money you spend on it are expensive, but I can give you the answers," Gu said.

Sex, commerce and housing

One of Wenda's most popular experts is "Queen C-Cup," whose identity and qualifications are unknown, but which has established itself as an oracle in sex, with more than six million followers.

Open discussion about sex is still frowned upon in China, and Queen C-Cup has complained of being harassed online.

But Wenda gives a degree of anonymity to those who ask questions, who seek advice from Queen C-Cup on everything from beautifying one's sex life to dealing with domestic violence or the anguish of forced marriages.

Crowd in the city of Ji'an, Shandong province, eastern China.

Crowd in the city of Ji'an, Shandong province, eastern China.

AAP

His fees can reach several hundred yuan and his answers are very spying.

Wenda is becoming an important part of China's knowledge economy, the Beijing-based Internet research company Sootoo Institute said in a recent report.

The number of people willing to pay for knowledge about Wenda or use other forms of paid content or articles doubled in 2017 to almost 188 million people, he said.

The prolonged trade dispute between the United States and China has provoked a wave of questions, especially since the Chinese government, always suspicious of potential social instability, has largely suppressed the discussion about the impact of the dispute.

"Is there any way in which China and the US can reconcile? How will ordinary citizens be affected?" a Wenda user recently asked, while many others ask for advice on whether they should stock up on certain products now.

The rising prices of housing in China are another of the main issues that has coined countless "experts", including Wang Sicong.

Investor and son of a leading Chinese business tycoon, Wang was recently asked, for a fee of 10,000 yuan ($ 2,000), if young urban residents should use their parents' savings to buy houses.

The answer – renting may be a better option, Wang said – was snoozed almost a million times.