China Is Banning ‘Wealth-flaunting’ Behavior On Social Media

Online influencers known for their luxurious lifestyles are disappearing from Chinese social media amid a government crackdown on conspicuous displays of wealth.

One of them, Wang Hongquan, had claimed to own seven properties in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and that he never left the house in an outfit worth less than 10 million yuan ($1.38 million). Videos he posted online, the veracity of which could not be verified, appeared to show his maids, numerous Hermès handbags and expensive sports cars that he had purchased.

On Tuesday, his account on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, was inaccessible to his 4.3 million followers. Searches returned an error message saying it had been blocked “due to violations of Douyin’s community guidelines.”

The Douyin accounts of other online influencers who posted similar content such as Bo Gongzi (Young Wealthy Lord Bai), with 2.9 million followers, and Baoyu Jiajie (Abalone Sister), with 2.3 million followers, were also blocked.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, the national internet regulator, announced a campaign in April against influencers who “create a ‘wealth-flaunting’ persona, deliberately showcasing a luxurious life built on money, in order to attract followers and traffic.”

This is far from the first time that Chinese authorities have tried to police the internet, which is heavily censored in China, in an effort to combat social trends seen as undesirable. In 2022, officials issued a “code of conduct” for livestream anchors prohibiting them from “displaying or hyping a large number of luxury goods, jewelry, cash and other assets.”

The latest crackdown comes as China is experiencing an economic slowdown that has hit the middle class especially hard. Young people in China are also struggling in an intensely competitive job market, with some of them choosing to “lie flat” and withdrawing from society or seeing content creation on social media as the only viable career.

“When most people are unhappy with their own lives, they see all this online content that’s so disconnected from reality — seeing all these people who seem so happy and wealthy, it creates a pretty warped psychology,” Lyla Lai, a former beauty influencer who had over a million followers on Douyin, told NBC News in a voice message.

Lai, who left Douyin amid criticism from other users over her sales tactics and lifestyle, said there were “concerns about young people today seeing too much of this stuff and not focusing on their studies anymore, getting caught up in this excessive, greedy materialism.”

“In the long run, that’s definitely not good for development, so this cleanup is really necessary,” said Lai, who now lives in Australia.

“But at the root of it, we also need to see the economy being able to develop more, so people can have a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness in their lives, rather than just seeking psychological comfort through the internet.”


NBC News

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