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The consumption and display of status symbols has long been one of the last great freedoms on China’s Internet. However, bragging about expensive bags, watches, cars, or makeup is increasingly a thorn in the side of the state, as Ning Wang reports. The central government propagates “common prosperity”. The excessive wealth of a minority is to be limited. Large lifestyle platforms such as Xiaohongshu declare that they want to take even more vigorous action against the online bragging rights of certain luxury influencers. This also affects Western luxury brands, which have been only too happy to exploit the immense reach of these online starlets.
The Covid pandemic hit many airlines hard. Countless connections had to be canceled due to the lockdowns. Photos of “aircraft graveyards” where hundreds of aircraft are stored made the rounds on social media. But while at least domestic traffic in China was flying normally, the cancelations are now piling up here, too. The reason is – of course – the zero-Covid policy. Add to that a weak yuan, high kerosene costs, and the mysterious crash in Guangxi, as Christian Domke-Seidel reports. The government is now putting together a new rescue package. If Germany saves Lufthansa, China will save its partly state-owned airlines even more so.
Cracking down on all show and no substance
Displaying one’s wealth publicly on the Internet is becoming increasingly dangerous in China. The authorities complain that “this kind of activity seriously violates China’s social values and exposes misguided content to the public.” Well-known and widely used platforms such as Xiaohongshu (literally “Little Red Book”) and Douyin have already drawn consequences, banning certain online challenges, such as the one in which particularly well-heeled users set out to spend ¥1 million (the equivalent of €140,000) a day and then show off on social media what can be bought for it. The “creation of content that intentionally flaunts wealth, for example, by showing off luxurious houses, cars or goods without providing useful information, shall be punished,” according to a brief from the Xiaohongshu platform.
The reason, as so often in China, is due to a contradiction with the official party line. A display of extreme wealth no longer fits the redistribution logic of state and party leader Xi Jinping. Xi had announced last summer that “excessively high incomes” would be capped and entrepreneurs should give more back to society. When he announced the goal of “common prosperity” by 2049 (China.Table reported), a wave of sociopolitical change was unleashed. The prosperity celebrated in the large metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai has long been a thorn in the side of the party leadership because it does not correspond to “Chinese-style socialism”. For years, cadres have been trained not to flaunt Rolex watches and expensive cars. Now the demand for “genuine socialism” is increasingly hitting the online world as well.
Violators risks removal
This makes the already strictly monitored Internet even more restrictive for China’s citizens. Violators face the threat of having their accounts deleted. And brands that work with influencers could also come under pressure, as a similar campaign against the entertainment industry recently showed (China.Table reported). Many of their business strategies are labeled as “immoral” by the government’s Anti-Protz campaign.