June 19, 2021

China’s Hottest Livestream Trend: Fraud

About halfway through the livestream, Li Huida felt her chest tighten with panic. She’d begun to suspect she’d been conned.

Li, a marketing manager from the eastern city of Suzhou, had spent a small fortune to get a popular Chinese influencer to promote her company’s product — a meal-replacement shake — during a live show in mid-August.

It was a big risk, but Li had been confident it’d work out. Commercial livestreaming, after all, was a red-hot industry in China. Stars like Li “the lipstick prince” Jiaqi regularly sold millions of dollars in goods per broadcast.

This whole commercial livestream was a scam.

At first, everything seemed fine. The influencer had nearly 2.5 million followers on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, and 120,000 people were watching the show. Likes and “

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