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‘Oh my God, buy it!’ China’s livestream shopping stars risk being censored

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Hua Shao stands knee-deep in water at the edge of the sea, behind a table piled high with large crabs. The famous Chinese TV host is sweaty, sunburnt and laughing with a co-host as a red-and-blue fishing boat bobs behind them.“The sea-ears taste so good, it must have been collected from a sea area where the water is very clear,” he tells more than 100,000 people who are watching online.It’s the eve of “618”, one of China’s biggest retail festivals, which are increasingly driven by the weird world of livestream shopping channels.Amid major economic concerns in China and arduous zero-Covid policies, 618 will give a strong indication of just how people’s urge to shop has been affected.

Discounts and deals are ubiquitous, promoted by legions of actual and aspiring retail celebrities. Hua is a big gun. The livestreams, which are spread across China’s internet and social media, occupy a space in between Instagram influencers and the late-night TV shopping channels of the 1980s and 90s.On platforms such as Taobao and Douyin – China’s TikTok – billions of dollars are spent on the interactive pages of livestream shopping anchors.

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