In a world where an entire generation of youth has come of age on social media, virtual relationships are gradually replacing real-life human connections. And China has taken it to an extreme. Here, live-streaming showrooms have become the most popular online hangouts for hundreds of millions – launching virtual careers for many eager souls, and making real fortunes for a lucky few. In this digital universe, young performers entertain live, interactive audiences of tens of thousands at a time, and earn as much as US$200,000 every month. Their fans include China’s super rich, who each night lavish virtual gifts on their favorite performers, and the dirt poor, many of them migrant workers in urban areas searching for a cheap way to be entertained, to feel connected. People’s Republic of Desires follows a karaoke singer and a rags-to-riches comedian as they search for fame, fortune and human connection in the live-streaming showrooms. We also meet their families, those managing the online talents, and those with money who control the fate of these talents. The story culminates in the bizarre annual online idol competition, in which the rich can buy unlimited amount of votes for their favorite performers. There our characters realize that money alone pulls the strings in this virtual universe, and human connection and personal happiness remain as illusive online as—perhaps even more so than—in our real and broken world.