China state TV slams beauty influencer who told off thrifty viewer

September 12, 2023 - 3:55 PM
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(Photo by Fyvie Zhao on Unsplash)

SHANGHAI — China’s state television criticized on Tuesday a famous beauty livestreamer who told off a viewer for complaining about the high price of an eyebrow pencil, as many Chinese feel the pinch from an economic slowdown.

CCTV’s remarks come after Li Jiaqi, dubbed the “Lipstick King” for his ability to get followers to sink billions of yuan into beauty products, had to apologize twice for criticizing the viewer following a furor on social media.

“Many Internet celebrities and anchors were humble before making money, and became very inflated after making money… and are doomed to be disgusting and eliminated,” CCTV said in a commentary on Li published on its website.

Li’s millions-strong audience are mostly young Chinese, who have been hard hit by the economic downturn. Youth unemployment hit a record-high of 21.3% in June, official data showed before the government halted publishing the figure, and households’ spending power and confidence remain low.

Livestreaming is big business in China, generating sales of $480 billion last year, and Li gets a commission from the products he sells on his livestreams.

On Sunday, a viewer told Li that prices for domestic make-up products, such as the 79 yuan ($10.8) eyebrow pencil he was selling, had become increasingly expensive, underscoring the weakness in household demand which has emerged as a key drag on the world’s second-largest economy.

Li responded by saying prices were not rising and told the viewer that she couldn’t afford the eyebrow pencil because she wasn’t working hard enough.

Hours later, he apologized to the viewer on this Weibo social media account, and then the following day, he apologized again on his livestream.

Li’s comments were still trending on social media on Tuesday. “I don’t expect Li to be empathetic to our situation, but you can’t just take people’s money and then scold them,” wrote a Weibo user with the handle Baixiwen.

– Reporting by Casey Hall; editing by Miral Fahmy