Title: Internet Celebrity Li Jiaqi Sparks Controversy, Exposing China’s Economic Downturn and Youth Unemployment Crisis
Date: September 17, 2023
Last Updated: 7 hours ago
Image copyright: Getty Images
Image caption: Live streaming internet celebrity Li Jiaqi is known as the “big brother who brings goods”.
Li Jiaqi, one of China’s most successful online anchors, faced severe backlash over the weekend after making insensitive remarks about rising product prices. This incident has shed light on the country’s economic downturn and alarming youth unemployment rates.
Li Jiaqi, popularly known as China’s “big brother” in live broadcasting, came under fire for promoting a domestic brand’s eyebrow pencil priced at 79 yuan. When viewers complained that the price was becoming increasingly expensive, Li Jiaqi refuted their claims. However, his response sparked outrage among netizens on Weibo, China’s popular social media platform.
Millions of followers immediately unfollowed Li Jiaqi, resulting in a significant drop in his fanbase. While this internet turmoil initially targeted the internet celebrity, it ultimately reflected the dire economic situation and high youth unemployment rate in China.
According to recent data, the youth unemployment rate in China has steadily increased over the past six months, reaching a record high. From January to June, the rate stood at 17.3%, 18.1%, 19.6%, 20.4%, 20.8%, and 21.3%, respectively. These figures indicate that over one-fifth of Chinese young people aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed. However, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics announced that it would no longer publish relevant data from August.
Furthermore, China’s real estate industry, which contributes to approximately one-third of the nation’s wealth, is on the verge of a full-blown crisis. Economists have lowered their projections for China’s economic growth, with many estimating figures lower than the government’s target of around 5%.
Liu Qiao, the dean of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, warned months ago that China’s current income levels are too low to transition into a “low desire society.”
Li Jiaqi, renowned for his endorsement of various products during livestreams, has earned significant wealth through his online presence. According to the “Top 100 Annual Net Income List of China (Mainland Region) Internet Anchors in 2021,” Li Jiaqi’s annual income reached a staggering RMB 1.8 billion.
Despite his success, critics argue that Li Jiaqi’s recent comments were particularly insensitive, considering the economic struggles faced by millions of young Chinese individuals.
The backlash against Li Jiaqi exposes the widespread disillusionment prevalent among China’s youth today. Social media comments following the incident highlight deep-rooted concerns about the increasing cost of living and stagnant wages. Many young women who form the major proportion of Li Jiaqi’s fanbase complain about their inability to make ends meet and the disparity between their wages and the prices they are expected to pay.
A poll conducted by “Ruimu Video” on Weibo asked netizens whether their wages had increased in the past three years. Over 17,000 participants responded, with more than 60% stating that their salaries had remained stagnant, nearly 30% confirming a drop in wages, and only 10% reporting a wage increase.
China’s state-run media outlet, CCTV, published an article criticizing Li Jiaqi and other internet celebrities, stating that they should not forget their initial purpose of serving ordinary people who care about their daily necessities. They cautioned that those who deviate from this purpose will inevitably face rejection and elimination from their audience.
This is not the first time Li Jiaqi has faced controversy. In 2022, he caused an uproar during a live broadcast by presenting a tank-shaped ice cream cake, which coincided with the sensitive anniversary of the “June 4th” incident. After disappearing for 109 days, he returned and issued a public apology for his words, acknowledging their inappropriateness.
Many netizens remain skeptical of Li Jiaqi’s apologies, indicating that his increasing backlash is rooted in the fact that he has inadvertently sparked discussions about the public’s diminishing purchasing power and broader economic struggles. The sentiment prevailing among these criticisms suggests that the issues faced by ordinary people should be at the forefront of national dialogue.
As China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims stability and improvement in the country’s economy, these incidents highlight the stark reality faced by many Chinese citizens, particularly the younger generation, who continue to face economic hardships and bleak prospects.
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