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China wants its nepo-baby and get-rich-quick influencers gone

Matthew Loh   

China wants its nepo-baby and get-rich-quick influencers gone
  • China's social media is cracking down on influencers trying to get famous by showing off wealth.
  • Some of its biggest platforms said they've removed thousands of posts of luxury flaunting.

Wealth-flexing for clout is now officially bad behavior in China.

China's biggest social media platforms launched a synchronized crackdown on parading wealth last week, removing thousands of posts and punishing dozens of influencers for promoting "bad values."

It's one of the Chinese internet's most pointed campaigns against "money worship" and flaunting luxury, which Beijing's central government has been ordering companies to regulate.

The platforms that announced disciplinary measures on May 15 included Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and Douyin — China's loose versions of Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Weibo, which has close to 600 million active users, posted the most extensive list of bannable behavior, including:

  • Displaying luxury cars or expensive houses as a gimmick to market products or build one's reputation.
  • Uploading pictures of large amounts of cash or people tossing banknotes.
  • Showing luxury services or goods to exaggerate how one can earn "millions in a month," achieve financial independence or start a lucrative business from scratch.
  • Hyping up a "second-generation household," a term that typically describes people who enjoy wealth because their parents are rich.
  • Filming minors using luxury goods to "attract traffic and hype."
  • Stoking discontent among poorer audiences and emphasizing class discrimination, listed by Weibo as "exaggerating and hyping the struggle of the lower classes to survive."

All three platforms have banned posts and accounts for "money worship" before, but their announcements made in tandem suggest an industry-wide push to clamp down on extravagant wealth.

Xu Qiuying, an editor for the state-owned paper Beijing News, wrote in a commentary that several influencers caught by the ban had been targeted for using displays of wealth as a marketing ploy.

"If the rich simply share their real lives, and their wealth comes from legitimate sources, and they just show off their wealth to satisfy their personal vanity, there is nothing wrong with that," Xu wrote.

Xu claimed that the barred influencers grew their fame by "showing off their wealth" and, in turn, became rich by selling products on livestreams.

"The 'rich' showed off their wealth to get rich," Xu wrote.

The account bans came as China's Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission announced a two-month campaign in April to "rectify the unscrupulous traffic-seeking on personal media."

Authorities said they were concerned by a surge in accounts creating fake personas or misrepresenting their lives to boost their numbers.

That included people who were "showing off wealth, deliberately showing a luxurious life built on money, thereby attracting fans and diverting traffic," the commission said.

All of this ties back to a precedent set by China's leader, Xi Jinping, to promote "common prosperity," or the ideal of providing wealth more equally to all Chinese citizens.

Xi's campaign initially focused on lifting China's vast rural population out of extreme poverty, benchmarked by a minimum salary determined by Beijing. The venture was generally well-received in a China that had turned jaded from widespread corruption and a growing class divide.

More recently, common prosperity has evolved into a crackdown on "excessive wealth," with the central government stepping up regulations on private industry giants and wealthy families.

Beijing seems to have toned down its rhetoric of common prosperity as its economy struggled in the post-COVID era. Still, state media continues to laud the idea as one of the country's foundations.

The campaign may have a long road ahead. In September, the income gap in 2022 between China's richest and poorest urban households was the country's widest since records began in 1985.

The average household income of the richest 20% in urban areas was 6.3 times that of the poorest 20%, per official data.



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