Li Jiaqi, one of China’s most well-known and successful social media influencers and salesmen, had been unexpectedly terminated on a live-stream on June 3 more than 100 days before.
Just one day before the anniversary of the crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989, his wildly famous social media page mysteriously went offline.
Many Chinese internet users hypothesised that Li’s promotion of a tank-shaped ice cream on his channel was what caused the abrupt closure. Since soldiers employed tanks during that terrible crackdown, tanks have come to represent the Communist Party’s oppression of Chinese civilians, and any reference of them—even ice creams loosely resembling them—on the June 4 anniversary is exceedingly sensitive.
Tuesday night, Li abruptly made a comeback and began hawking a variety of harmless goods to an online audience that was excited to see him again. Again, neither his unexpected departure nor his subsequent reappearance were explained.
Chinese media said that Li’s return session, which was aired on an Alibaba website (the country’s version of Amazon) and other social media platforms, had more than 60 million views and that he sold goods worth an estimated $18 million.
Li, who also goes by the anglicised moniker Austin, was enthusiastically welcomed by his army of admirers as several Chinese online theorised that anybody with the unique ability to greatly increase retail sales was just too vital to the Chinese economy to be quiet for long.
Due to the government’s draconian “zero COVID” policy, which severely restricts the movement of people and products across vast regions if even a few coronavirus cases are discovered, China’s economy is still essentially stagnant.
Consumers may significantly limit their offline spending as a result of the rolling lockdowns and other COVID restrictions, according to a research by Fitch Ratings.
Many had anticipated that these consumers would go to China’s online shopping behemoths like Alibaba and JD.com instead.
These businesses have suffered much like the rest of the globe as a result of the global economic downturn and rising energy costs. Alibaba, where Li has spent years assisting in raking in billions in sales, reported its first-ever flat year-over-year revenue increase in the second quarter.
The situation is so terrible that the corporation intends to start its yearly sale early. Every year, around November 11 — or 11/11, with all the ones in the date standing in for lonely individuals — the “Singles’ Day” shopping extravaganza takes place.
This year, it will start weeks earlier than usual in an effort to increase sales, according to the Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post.
The retail behemoth promoted the holiday as a “anti-Day” Valentine’s celebration for singles to treat themselves to when it was first introduced in 2009. However, e-commerce companies have enthusiastically embraced it as a sales occasion, with figures that eclipse Cyber Monday.
However, given the current state of the economy, executives at Alibaba and other online merchants will be hoping that social media influencers will convince Chinese customers to part with more money. The event has lost some of its early allure.
And although while it may never be known for sure what caused Li to abruptly return to the online salesroom, many store executives will probably be more delighted to have him back than his clientele.