ALMOST EVERYONE in China understands “Austin” Li Jiaqi. The 28- year-old “Lipstick Bro”, started out flogging make-up items in Nanchang, a provincial city, and now sells them to millions by live-streaming on Taobao, part of Alibaba, China’s greatest web seller– as soon as moving 15,000 sticks of lipstick in five minutes. Some will acknowledge Chen Yi, nicknamed “Little Beast”, a 24- year-old girl-next-door from the coastal city of Qingdao who offers sun block, treats and lots more besides to her 20,000 fans on WeChat, an ubiquitous messaging app: a nice supplement to her day task as a bartender. More obscure but no less enterprising, farmers and anglers show off juicy apples or prize lobsters in short videos, digital showmanship accompanied by new delivery networks that enable city occupants to acquire the fruit and vegetables.
Such are the faces– lipsticked, sunscreened, weather-worn or besnorkeled– that have assisted move a surge of e-commerce in China. In rapid-fire videos or days-long jamborees, they flicker across hundreds of millions of smartphone screens in a cyber-bazaar that in 2019 was almost twice the size of those of America, Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea combined– and growing much faster (see chart 1).
As online shopping has skyrocketed, even prior to covid-19 included additional fuel, Chinese internet firms have actually dreamed up …