China’s top live streamer Li Jiaqi’s online silence spans a week
The online silence of China’s top live-sales influencer Li Jiaqi extended into a week on Friday, leaving fans to speculate on why he disappeared and when he would be back on their screens. . Also known by his English name Austin, Li has over 64 million subscribers for his live streaming channel on Alibaba Group Taobao Marketplace where he sells a wide range of products ranging from cosmetics to food for a few hours in the evening, usually six days a week.
He was considered the latest mega-livestreaming influencer after his biggest rival, Viya, was fined 1.34 billion yuan and shut down for tax evasion in December. Brands like L’Oreal and Louis Vuitton regularly hire internet celebrities like Li to market products in China.
Li’s last online appearance was on June 3, when he peddled articles on Taobao before being abruptly cut off. Screenshots circulating online showed he and a co-host promoted an ice cream product by decorating it as a tank. He then said on his official Weibo account that the abrupt end of the session was due to a technical error.
However, many online users speculated that this was because the float and air date was uncomfortably close to the June 4th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, when the army sent tanks to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The day is traditionally a sensitive day for the country’s internet, with censors swiftly blocking all related content.
Li’s company did not respond to requests for comment on Friday. His fans continued to leave daily comments on his latest post on Weibo, with many saying they were waiting for him to reappear. His disappearance also comes as Chinese e-commerce platforms prepare for the annual “618” online shopping festival, one of the country’s largest. Retailers and sales hosts like Li have in recent weeks promoted products in hopes of attracting buyers amid an economic downturn.
Last year, Li Jiaqi and Viya pre-sold 18.9 billion yuan ($2.96 billion) worth of merchandise ahead of another shopping festival, Singles Day. Jacob Cooke, CEO of e-commerce consultancy WPIC Marketing + Technologies, said that while brand interest in engaging live mega-streamers like Li is waning due to the high costs involved, there is no doubt that he still had weight and his absence could hurt “618” sales.
“It’s very possible that it will have an impact,” Cooke said. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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