Popular TV singing contests, such as "Super Girl" and "Happy Boy," seem to have brought Chinese young people something above sheer entertainment-they have created them a new type of social life.
Peng Yu, a teenage girl from southwestern Sichuan province, is a huge fan of Su Xing, who participated in the "2007 Happy Boy" contest launched by a domestic television station.
Together with 400 some boys and girls from the same province, they formed a fan club titled "the Sichuan Backup Unit for Su Xing."
Here is Peng Yu's schedule for this summer vacation, a typical one as a fan.
During week days, Peng Yu is online round-the-clock communicating with her allies in forums or in ICQ chatting groups. On weekends she goes downtown to meet them to do promotion activities for their idol.
"Every week I make ten new friends or more, and we have really good time together," she said.
Peng Yu and her friends should be happy as their icon Su Xing, a 23-year-old R&B lover and returned student from Australia, took the second prize in the final on Friday evening.
Although the competition has concluded, the fan club members' friendship will continue.
Jiang Linjuan, who works for a company in south China's Guangzhou city, is a fan of Chris Li, the winner of 2005 "Super Girl" contest. Recently she went to a party held by Chris Li's fans in the city.
"There were seven or eight people of us, from teenagers to 40-year-olds and of varied professions," Jiang recalled. "We spent the time together in a restaurant eating and chatting like old friends."
"Nowadays young people are mostly from single-child families. Being the fans of someone brings these lonely children together," Hu Guangwei, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology, Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying.
Xia Xueluan, a professor at the Department of Sociology, Peking University, shares the opinion.
"Today's young people lack the sense of belonging," he said. "The fan clubs provide them with a sort of attachment to each other."
The TV talent shows are weekly elimination games in which the competitors' performances are measured partly by the votes they received online and through cell phone SMS short messages. It takes several months from the general selection to the final.