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China Targets Super Rich, Wealth-Flaunting Influencers Amid Slow Economic Growth


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China has intensified its crackdown on social media influencers flaunting their wealth as part of efforts to address social inequality and maintain social stability. On Tuesday, three of the country’s most high-profile luxury lifestyle influencers—Wang Hongquanxin, Baoyu Jiajie, and Bo Gongzi—disappeared from popular platforms such as Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo.

Wang Hongquanxin, known for his collection of rare Hermès bags and jade jewelry, recently opened a secondhand luxury store in Beijing. He was last seen at a BMW event in Cannes, hosted by Naomi Campbell. Baoyu Jiajie, nicknamed “Abalone Sister,” comes from a wealthy family owning a luxury dried goods chain in Hong Kong and Macao. She frequently appeared at exclusive events with Hong Kong elites and celebrities. Bo Gongzi, recognized for his extravagant spending on luxury brands like Hermès and Dior, often shared his high-end shopping and travel experiences online.

State-owned media outlet The Cover reported that the ban is part of China’s initiative to foster a “civilized, healthy and harmonious” social environment. Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo have all taken significant actions in line with this policy. Between May 1-7, Douyin removed 4,701 messages and 11 accounts. Xiaohongshu deleted 4,273 posts and closed 383 accounts in the past two weeks. Weibo removed over 1,100 pieces of content deemed to promote undesirable values, such as wealth flaunting and money worship.

Chinese influencers have become a vital part of the marketing strategies for luxury brands, particularly on platforms like Weibo, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu. These influencers, through their extensive reach and engagement, create viral content that boosts brand awareness and showcases new products. However, the swift removal of these influencers underscores China’s commitment to curbing displays of excess wealth and addressing social inequalities amid economic challenges.

The crackdown has disrupted luxury brands’ strategies to engage Chinese consumers through localized, user-generated content. With high-profile Weibo influencers and popular figures on Douyin and Xiaohongshu disappearing from the scene, brands that have heavily invested in influencer partnerships may need to reassess their strategies and find new ways to reach consumers.

Douyin, often compared to TikTok, and Xiaohongshu, known internationally as Little Red Book, have distinct user bases and content styles. Douyin focuses more on short, viral videos, while Xiaohongshu combines user-generated content with e-commerce, making it a unique platform for lifestyle and shopping-related content. The recent crackdown affects both platforms differently but significantly.

The disappearance of these influencers from social media also raises questions about the future of digital marketing in China. With the government’s clear stance on reducing wealth flaunting, the focus might shift towards promoting more socially responsible and culturally sensitive content. This change could redefine the landscape of social media influence in China, pushing both influencers and brands to adapt to a more regulated and scrutinized environment.

As China moves towards a more controlled and equitable social media environment, influencers will need to align their content with government policies, emphasizing modesty and social responsibility. This shift may foster a new era of digital marketing where authenticity and cultural sensitivity take precedence, ultimately reshaping how brands connect with Chinese consumers on platforms like Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo.

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