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China’s 2017 Next TV Drama Hit – “Rule The World”

Upcoming Chinese costume drama “Rule The World” will not be broadcasted until later in 2017. The show is already one of the most anticipated Chinese TV dramas of the next year.

Manya Koetse

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Upcoming Chinese costume drama “Rule The World” will not be broadcasted until later in 2017, but the show is already one of the most anticipated Chinese TV dramas of the next year.

The new upcoming Chinese TV drama Rule the World (独步天下, literally: ‘Walking Alone Under Heaven’), directed by Shao Jinghui (邵警辉), has already become a hit on Chinese social media – despite the fact it will not be broadcasted until 2017.

The historical romance drama became a much talked about topic (独步天下) on Chinese social media after the Tencent Video Convention earlier this month, where the drama was formally announced and its promotional posters were revealed.

The drama’s cast and producers held a celebratory kick-off ceremony for the show on November 15.

The drama’s leading star is Hong Kong singer and actor Raymond Lam (林峯), who personally came to the convention to talk about Rule the World.

Rule the World is based on a 2007 novel by the same name by author Li Xin (李歆). Its title has also been translated as An Unrivaled World.

The Rule the World romantic novel is quite popular among Chinese netizens; about 18 million people read about the book on Sina Weibo. The book revolves around a time traveling female photographer named Bu Youran, who goes back 400 years and whose soul enters the body of the beautiful woman Dong’ge. Her role will be played by Chinese actress Tang Yixin (@唐艺昕), and Raymond Lam will play the part of her love interest, Huang Taiji.

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Although the majority of Chinese netizens look forward to the upcoming costume drama, there are also those who are worried the TV drama will not be able to be as good as their favorite novel. They will have to wait and see until later in 2017 to know if the show will (not) be able to live up to the novel.

– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

Three Reasons Why Lipstick King’s ‘Eyebrow Pencil Gate’ Has Blown Up

From beauty guru to betrayal: why one livestream moment is shaking China’s internet.

Manya Koetse

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PREMIUM CONTENT

Li Jiaqi, also known as Austin Li the ‘Lipstick King,’ has become the focus of intense media attention in China over the past days.

The controversy began when the popular beauty influencer responded with apparent annoyance to a viewer’s comment about the high price of an eyebrow pencil. As a result, his fans began unfollowing him, netizens started scolding him, Chinese state criticized him, and the memes started flooding in.

Li Jiaqi’s tearful apology did not fix anything.

We reported about the incident here shortly after it went trending, and you can see the translated video of the moment here:

The incident may seem minor at first glance. Li was merely promoting Florasis brand (花西子) eyebrow pencils, and some viewers expressed their opinion that the pencils, priced at 79 yuan ($11), had become more expensive.

In response, Li displayed irritation, questioning, “Expensive how?” He went on to suggest that viewers should also reflect on their own efforts and whether they were working hard enough to get a salary increase.

But there is more to this incident than just an $11 pencil and an unsympathetic response.

 

#1 The King Who Forgot the People Who Crowned Him

 

The initial reaction of netizens to Li Jiaqi’s remarks during the September 10th livestream was characterized by a strong sense of anger and disappointment.

Although celebrities often face scrutiny when displaying signs of arrogance after their rise to fame, the position of Li Jiaqi in the wanghong (internet celebrity) scene has been especially unique. He initially worked as a beauty consultant for L’Oreal within a shopping mall before embarking on his livestreaming career through Alibaba’s Taobao platform.

In a time when consumers have access to thousands of makeup products across various price ranges, Li Jiaqi established himself as a trusted cosmetics expert. People relied on his expertise to recommend the right products at the right prices, and his practice of personally applying and showcasing various lipstick colors made him all the more popular. He soon garnered millions of online fans who started calling him the Lipstick King.

By 2018, he had already amassed a significant fortune of 10 million yuan ($1.53 million). Fast forward three years, and his wealth had ballooned to an astonishing 18.5 billion yuan ($2.5 billion).

Despite his growing wealth, Li continued to enjoy the support of his fans, who appreciated his honest assessments of products during live testing sessions. He was known for candidly informing viewers when a product wasn’t worth buying, and the story of his humble beginnings as a shop assistant played a major role in why people trusted him and wanted him to succeed.

However, his recent change in tone, where he no longer seemed considerate of viewers who might find an $11 brow pencil to be expensive, suggests that he may have lost touch with his own customer base. Some individuals perceive this shift as a form of actual “betrayal” (背叛), as if a close friend has turned their back on them.

The viral cartoon shows Li Jiaqi going from a friendly beggar to angry rat.

One cartoon shared on social media shows Li Jiaqi, with mouse ears, as he initially begs his online viewers for money. However, as he becomes more prosperous, the cartoon portrays him gradually growing arrogant and eventually scolding those who helped him rise to fame.

Many people accuse Li of being insincere, suggesting that he revealed his true colors during that short livestream moment. This is also one of the reasons why most commenters say they do not believe his tears during his apology video.

“He betrayed China’s working class,” one popular vlog suggested.

 

#2 Internet Celebrity Crossing the Lines

 

Another reason why the incident involving Li Jiaqi is causing such a storm is related to the media context in which Chinese (internet) celebrities operate and what is expected of them.

Whether you are an actor, singer, comedian, or a famous livestreamer/e-commerce influencer, Chinese celebrities and performers are seen as fulfilling an exemplary role in society, serving the people and the nation (Jeffrey & Xu 2023). This is why, as explained in the 2019 research report by Jonathan Sullivan and Séagh Kehoe, moral components play such a significant role in Chinese celebrity culture.

In today’s age of social media, the role of celebrities in society has evolved to become even more significant as they have a vast reach and profound influence that extends to countless people and industries.

Their powerful influence makes celebrities important tools for authorities to convey messages that align with their goals – and definitely not contradict them. Through the media and cultural industries, the state can exert a certain level of control within the symbolic economy in which celebrities operate, as discussed by Sullivan and Kehoe in their 2019 work (p. 242).

This control over celebrities’ actions became particularly evident in the case of Li Jiaqi in 2022, following the ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件). This incident unfolded during one of his livestreams when Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced a chocolate cake in the shape of a tank, with an assistant in the back mentioning something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”). This livestream took place on June 3rd, on the night before the 33rd anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen protests.

While Li Jiaqi did not directly touch upon a politically sensitive issue with his controversial livestream, his actions were perceived as a disregard for customer loyalty and displayed an arrogance inconsistent with socialist core values. This behavior garnered criticism in a recent post by the state media outlet CCTV.

Post by CCTV condemning Li’s behavior.

Other state media outlets and official channels have joined in responding to the issue, amplifying the narrative of a conflict between the ‘common people’ and the ‘arrogant influencer.’

 

#3 Striking a Wrong Chord in Challenging Times

 

Lastly, Li Jiaqi’s controversial livestream moment also became especially big due to the specific words he said about people needing to reflect on their own work efforts if they cannot afford a $11 eyebrow pencil.

Various online discussions and some media, including CNN, are tying the backlash to young unemployment, tepid consumer spending, and the ongoing economic challenges faced by workers in China.

Since recent years, the term nèijuǎn (‘involution’, 内卷) has gained prominence when discussing the frustrations experienced by many young people in China. It serves as a concept to explain the social dynamics of China’s growing middle class who often find themselves stuck in a “rat race”; a highly competitive education and work environment, where everyone is continually intensifying their efforts to outperform one another, leading to this catch 22 situation where everyone appears to be caught in an unending cycle of exertion without substantial progress (read more here).

Weibo commenters note that, given China’s current employment situation and wage levels, hard work is not necessarily awarded with higher income. This context makes Li Jiaqi’s comments seem even more unnecessary and disconnected from the realities faced by his customers. One Shanghai surgeon responded to Li’s comments, saying that the fact that his salary has not increased over the last few year certainly is not because he is not working hard enough (#上海胸外科医生回应李佳琦言论#).

Some observers also recognize that Li, as an e-commerce professional, is, in a way, trapped in the same cycle of “inversion” where brands are continuously driving prices down to such low levels that consumers perceive it as the new normal. However, this pricing strategy may not be sustainable in the long run. (Ironically, some brands currently profiting from the controversy by promoting their own 79 yuan deals, suggesting their deal is much better than Li’s. Among them is the domestic brand Bee & Flower 蜂花, which is offering special skin care products sets for 79 yuan in light of the controversy.)

Many discussions therefore also revolve around the question of whether 79 yuan or $11 can be considered expensive for an eyebrow pencil, and opinions are divided. Some argue that people pay much more for skincare products, while others point out that if you were to weigh the actual quantity of pencil color, its price would surpass that of gold.

The incident has sparked discussions about the significance of 79 yuan in today’s times, under the hashtag “What is 79 yuan to normal people” (#79元对于普通人来说意味着什么#).

People have shared their perspectives, highlighting what this amount means in their daily lives. For some, it represents an entire day’s worth of home-cooked meals for a family. It exceeds the daily wages of certain workers, like street cleaners. Others equate it to the cost of 15 office lunches.

One netizen posts 79 yuan ($10.9) worth of groceries.

Amid all these discussions, it also becomes clear that many people are trying to live a frugal live in a time when their wages are not increasing, and that Li’s comments are just one reason to vent their frustrations about the situation they are in, In those regards, Li’s remarks really come at a wrong time, especially coming from a billionaire.

Will Li be able to continue his career after this?

Some are suggesting that it is time for Li to take some rest, speculating that Li’s behavior might stem from burn-out and mental issues. Others think that Li’s hardcore fans will remain loyal to their e-commerce idol.

For now, Li Jiaqi must tread carefully. He has already lost 1.3 million followers on his Weibo account. What’s even more challenging than regaining those one million followers is rebuilding the trust of his viewers.

Update: On September 19, the Florasis/Huaxizi brand finally apologized for its late response to the controversy, and the brand stated that the controversy provided an opportunity for them to listen to “the voice of their consumers.” Their decision to release a statement seemed fruitful: they gained 20,000 new followers in a night.

By Manya Koetse

with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Jeffreys, Elaine, and Jian Xu. 2023. “Governing China’s Celebrities.” Australian Institute of International Affairs, 18 May https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/governing-chinas-celebrities/ [12 Sep 2023].

Sullivan, Jonathan, and Séagh Kehoe. 2019. “Truth, Good and Beauty: The Politics of Celebrity in China.” The China Quarterly 237 (March): 241–256.

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Eyebrow Pencil Gate: “Lipstick King” Li Jiaqi Loses 630,000 Fans In One Night

China’s famous beauty livestreamer Li Jiaqi is in hot water after his annoyed response about an $11 eyebrow pencil.

Manya Koetse

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Li Jiaqi is facing controversy for remarks he made during his recent e-commerce livestream. When viewers made comments about an eyebrow pencil being expensive, he lashed out and asked them if they worked hard enough. Due to his cold attitude and arrogant comments, the ‘lipstick king’ seems to have lost his crown.

Li Jiaqi is losing fans. That is according to a Weibo hashtag that went trending today (#李佳琦掉粉#), which highlights a significant drop of 630,000 Weibo followers in just 24 hours.

For those unfamiliar with Li Jiaqi (1992, English name Austin Li), he is one of China’s most renowned make-up influencers, also known as the “Lipstick King.” Previously a cosmetics salesman, Li has since risen to become one of China’s most celebrated livestreamers, setting numerous records along the way.

In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But now Li is in hot water because of an e-commerce livestream he did on Sunday, September 10th. When some viewers complained that the eyebrow pencil by Huaxi Zi (花西子), Florasis, seems to be getting more expensive (79 RMB, $10.9), Li vehemently defended the cosmetic brand. Seemingly annoyed with his viewers, he insisted that the product was reasonably priced, highlighting the brand’s use of high-quality ingredients and claiming it had not increased its prices for years.

In addition to this, Li began to lecture his audience, questioning whether they had made significant efforts to have received salary raises over the years (Literally: “Sometimes it’s because of yourself, if you haven’t seen a raise in so many years, did you work hard enough?” [“有的时候自己原因好吧。怎么多年了工资张没涨有没有认真工作”]). Even his assistant, next to him, seemed visibly uncomfortable when Li lashed out. We added some subtitled to this short fragment here.

Later on, Li appeared to recognize his mistake and suggested that people weren’t obligated to purchase the Florasis brand; instead, they could opt for a more affordable eyebrow pencil that he would be promoting later on.

This incident sparked major backlash from fans who voices their anger and disappointment, accusing Li of losing sight of his humble origins and owing everything to his viewers. Starting out by selling Maybelline makeup behind a shop counter, Li rose to prominence alongside the live e-commerce trend, amassing immense wealth thanks to his dedicated fans and viewers.

Why would he now alienate his viewers in such a way? Furthermore, many argued that the Florasis eyebrow pencil is undeniably expensive, with some even making comparisons to the cost of gold when measured by weight.

In the early morning of September 11, Li apologized on his Weibo account. He wrote that he felt disappointed in himself for responding the way he did. “As a livestream host I should send out positive energy, and learn to control my emotions,” he wrote.

Li Jiaqi apology on Weibo.

Later on, he issued an on-camera apology during a livestream. With tears in his eyes, he expressed heartfelt remorse for letting down so many people and acknowledged his mistakes. A related hashtag on Weibo soon got over 430 million clicks (#李佳琦哭着道歉#).

But many people do not appreciate his apologies. The top comment under his written apology post says: “You are making money out of ordinary people and now you turned around saying ordinary people are too poor,” while the most popular comment under the livestream apology said: “If I would earn 5 million yuan a day ($685k), my tears would be much more sincere than yours.”

This meme shows that many viewers do not feel moved by Li’s apologetic tears.

There are more angles to this story. Besides alienating his audience, others also feel he is not being completely transparant. As Li Jiaqi hinted during the livestream, he seems to have a very close relationship with the Florasis brand. Some reports even suggest that the commission rate for his endorsement of the Florasis brand, which was established in Hangzhou six years ago, may have been as high as 80%.

It is not the first time Li gets caught up in controversy. Last year, Li disappeared from China’s e-commerce channels for three months after one of his livestreams made references to shooting tanks. The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations.

However, a notable distinction between that controversy and the current one lies in how his fans reacted. Despite the prior controversy, the majority of his supporters remained loyal to the beauty influencer, extending a warm welcome when he returned in September of 2022.

This time, many followers feel personally attacked by him. While Li Jiaqi defended the brow pencil price by suggesting that “domestic brands are struggling,” some commenters ask: “If domestic brands are struggling, don’t you think the people are also struggling?” (“国货难,国民难道就不难了吗?”)

Earlier this year, a casual remark made by Chinese actress Zhang Yuqi during a livestream also ignited discussions surrounding the stark disparity between the perspectives of celebrities and the financial realities experienced by ordinary individuals. During that promotional livestream, Zhang suggested that 699 yuan ($100) for a cashmere blanket was so cheap, saying: “I don’t even think I can buy a pair of socks with that amount.”

In response to this incident, some commenters mentioned that they could cover their food expenses for an entire month with that money. Many netizens remarked that some Chinese celebrities seem to not only live in a world where everything costs more, but they also seem to reside in a place where “poverty” is defined differently.

By Monday night, Li Jiaqi still had 29,8 million followers on Weibo, although some wondered how many of them were active and authentic Weibo users. Will Li be able to win back the favor of his fans? The numbers will tell.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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