Weekly #7 Five China stories you need to read: Hunkvertising in livestreaming sales; Japanese restaurants in China; Young teachers at seniors universities
From heartthrob to cart-add: Douyin's enthralling men of merchandise.
Here comes our #7 weekly roundup, five captivating China stories selected by GRR from China's social media platforms, which delves into the following topics:
1) "Hunkvertising" emerges as the latest trend to watch in the heart of China's e-commerce boom. What's behind this unique marketing wave?
2) Japanese eateries in China now emphasize their distinction by specifying that their seafood isn't sourced from Japan.
3) China's senior universities: where elders learn dance to tech. Dive into the unique tales of young teachers navigating this reversed age dynamic.
4) In China's manufacturing realm, often overlooked by youth, lies an unexpected lifeline for job-seeking graduates.
5) How does Beidaihe, a serene Chinese resort, become an annual retreat and intellectual hub for China's foremost experts?
Subscribe GRR newsletter for free to get a glimpse into the priorities of both the leadership and the general public in China.
1.When Livestreaming Sales Enters the “Hunk Era” 当直播卖货进入“男色时代”
The article discusses an unconventional marketing strategy known as "Hunkvertising" that has taken center stage in China's rapidly expanding e-commerce sector.
These days, when you open Douyin (Chinese TikTok) or enter a livestreaming session in Taobao (China's largest e-commerce platform ), you are likely to encounter some male influencers leveraging their physical appeal or unique personas to engage with female viewers and promote their sponsors’ products. The shift from traditional livestreaming sales strategies mirrors the substantial population and growing purchasing power of female consumers in China’s e-commerce industry.
This article comes from 每日人物 [Daily Person], a platform that highlights the people involved in societal hot topics and even victims of overlooked everyday accidents.
It is difficult to trace the exact origins of the “Hunkvertising” that prevails the short video and livestreaming platforms. It is certain that, Li Jiaqi, the sales king and trendsetter in China’s livestreaming industry, has played a pivotal role.
In September 2022, after an absence of over three months, Li Jiaqi's first move upon returning to livestreaming was to introduce a new group of sales assistants. Among them, four young men with modeling backgrounds stood out. They are playfully dubbed as "Li Jiaqi’s F4" (F4 is a famed 4-member Taiwanese boy band that gained immense popularity in the early 2000s).
In this crew, each individual has his distinct persona and plays a unique role: the "CEO Guy" known for heartwarming gestures that create a delightful contrast, the "Puppy Guy" captivating the audience with his delicate features, the "Sweet Guy" who made the famous line - "It's OK to forget me, but don’t forget to complete your payment," and the affectionate "Daddy Guy," who can't help but blush while exuding charm.
Compared to their main roles of modeling and promoting products, the physiques and looks of “Li Jiaqi’s F4” are clearly a stronger hook. They sporadically break into a "kiss kiss gesture dance," displaying sass and sweetness to the viewers. Meanwhile, poor Li Jiaqi stands beside them as the "picked-on" presence, confessing, "I am too short and have too big a head next to them."
The "play" reaches its climax when the female sales assistant, Wang Wang, playfully teases the male models. She exclaims to the audience, "Guys just gotta show off their Adam’s apples when wearing turtlenecks!" In her excitement, she pulls the male models up close to the camera, asking them into loosen their ties while delivering a CEO-like, bossy reminder for customers to settle their final payments. The models play along, revealing some bashfully innocent grins.
These scenes are later edited into funny videos that quickly go viral in the Chinese internet. Wang Wang, whose hands act out the desires of all the other girls, receives a shower of praise. "It's a woman who understands what women want to see after all," the viewers comment.
The prevalence of "hunkvertising" on social media is no random occurrence but is driven by women's increasing proportion of short video and livestreaming consumption.
According to QuestMobile data, as of January 2023, the active user count of female users in the mobile internet community has reached nearly 600 million, with an average monthly usage time of 163.6 hours, spending over 5 hours surfing the internet daily. Short videos, social media, and e-commerce platforms exhibit notably high user engagement. Integrated e-commerce apps, in particular, witness a year-on-year increase of over 50 million female users.
A "Public Opinion Research Report on Female Marketing" produced by ZhiweiData, a Chinese internet business intelligence service specialist, further demonstrates that China boasts nearly 400 million female consumers aged 20 to 60, holding sway over an impressive annual consumption of up to 10 trillion RMB (USD 1.37 trillion). Moreover, 70 percent to 80 percent of users on vertical e-commerce platforms are also female.
It's no secret that featuring good-looking individuals in marketing has been a smart strategy, as their presence uplifts the overall viewing experience. These individuals who are in great shape can effectively showcase clothing and products. Engaging with the female sales team and the audience in a friendly and appropriate manner also creates a more enjoyable atmosphere during extended livestreaming sessions that usually last for hours.
However, it's crucial to strike a balance. As seen in the negative example of 椰树 [Coconut Palm Group], this beverage company with a limited product range, has gained notoriety for its crude advertising over the years.
While "Hunkvertising" has gained traction as an attention-grabbing strategy, its ultimate success depends on the professionalism of the sales team and, most importantly, the quality of the promoted products.
2.Japanese restaurants in China draw a line from Japanese seafood 日料店，与日本海鲜划清界限
Overview: The article discusses changes in Chinese Japanese restaurants and how they respond to concerns over Japanese seafood following the Fukushima radioactive water release.
In addressing frequent questions about the origin of their ingredients, many restaurants clarify their sourcing is not from Japan while some say they have already adjust their ingredient sourcing to exclude Japanese seafood. Nevertheless, concerns about the “contaminated” seafood are not limited to Japanese waters, as all seafood will be affected at the end of the day.
The article comes from 半熟财经 [Half-Cooked Finance], a WeChat account with the mission of bridging the knowledge gap between the younger generation and the business realm. It is the latest addition to the media network under Caijing Magazine, a renowned financial publication in China.
As the clock strikes 9 PM in Beijing's Beixinqiao subdistrict, a budget-friendly izakaya (Japanese-style pub) featured prominently on Dianping's popularity rankings (Note: Dianping is a Chinese app for people to discover and review various businesses and services), enters its busiest hours of the day. For Xiao Wen, the young woman usher, August 24 appeared to be an ordinary day. The occupancy rate, holding steady at around 80 percent, felt typical.
Yet, a subtle change was in the air. Every now and then, customers approached with questions about the origin of their ingredients. Xiao Wen was quick to provide her well-rehearsed answer: all our ingredients are domestically sourced, except for the saury, which comes from Japan but has been frozen in their freezer for a year.
The turning point emerged from the event on August 24 at 12 PM Beijing time, when Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began discharging radioactive water into the sea. Subsequently, the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) issued an announcement to suspend all imports of aquatic products from Japan.
Soon, discussions unfolded on the internet about the potential mass closures of Chinese Japanese restaurants. Under the scrutiny of consumers, a growing number of these restaurants issued statements clarifying that their ingredients were not from Japan. Some high-end Japanese restaurants relying partially on imported Japanese seafood also made announcements about adjusting their ingredient sourcing to ensure compliance with national food safety standards.
In reality, the volume of imported Japanese seafood products in the Chinese market was already quite limited. The staff at the office of Jingshen Seafood Market, the largest seafood marketplace in Beijing, revealed that before the ban was announced, there were no seafood products from Japan in the market.
Nevertheless, due to the growing public concerns about radioactive water, the negative perception extended beyond seafood from Japanese waters to all seafood, as they are considered either “contaminated” or “to be contaminated”.
Japanese restaurants focusing on seafood and raw consumption, bore the brunt of this incident. In a survey conducted by Sina News (a prominent online news platform in China) engaging over 522,000 respondents with the question "Would you still visit Japanese restaurants?", 281,000 respondents chose "won't go again," and 155,000 said that they never ate Japanese cuisine to begin with. The combined ratio of the two negative answers was 84 percent.
Amid escalating anti-Japan sentiments and worries regarding contaminated seafood, Japanese restaurants in China are demonstrating remarkable resilience by finding ways to reassure customers and adjust their offerings to comply with the new food safety standards. This allows lovers of Japanese cuisine in China to savor their favorite dishes in the weeks ahead.
However, as the negative perception of contaminated seafood extends beyond Japanese waters to all seafood, it becomes imperative for the seafood industry to collaboratively address these apprehensions and take collective measures to restore consumer trust.
3.Young teachers at seniors Universities 在老年大学任教的年轻人
Seniors universities are a school specifically designed for older generations. It offers courses like music, dance, and smartphone usage to enhance the retirement lifestyle for seniors. However, this article highlights the experiences of young teachers who teach at seniors universities. It shares stories of three young teachers who spend their days with students much older than themselves. One teacher has learned responsibility from the elderly, while another has been inspired by their strong desire to learn and another has developed close friendships with their senior students.
This is a report by 真故研究室 [Zhengu Lab], a niche WeChat account which provides authentic, fresh, and interesting business insights.
Young students always leave immediately after class, but at seniors universities, whenever there is a break, teacher Tan Jiayi is always surrounded by curious elderly people. Even after class, Tan cannot "escape" until the school janitor enters the classroom to persuade students to leave.
"They cherish every opportunity to receive education. In the ten years that I have been teaching here, every group of students has been like this," Tan said.
Tan’s accomplishment in education is amplified at seniors universities. This satisfaction not only comes from the students' enthusiasm for learning but also, more importantly, from the immediate feedback that teachers receive for every inch of effort they put in.
The main teaching content of the smartphone course is to teach the elderly how to use their phones to fulfill basic life needs, such as using WeChat for chatting, shopping, ordering taxis, and making hospital appointments. Every student who joins this class has a strong desire to keep up with the times, and for them, Tan is the pivot.
Tan remembers that in the first group of students, there was an elderly lady who loved Latin dance. After learning how to shop online, she finally bought her first satisfactory dance dress on Taobao, China's online shopping platform. Unexpectedly, in the next class, she came to the classroom wearing the dance dress she received, excitedly showing it to Tan. The image of her swirling with her dress and the smile on her face from ten years ago is still vivid in Tan's memory.
Many elderly students who come to class live alone. Apart from shopping and entertainment, making doctor's appointments through their phones is also a popular demand. Tan once received a thank-you letter from an elderly lady who learned how to make appointments, to express the difficulties of living alone with children abroad. Reading the letter, a sense of achievement and sourness were mixed in Tan's heart.
At seniors universities, the boundaries of age become blurred. Sixty and ninety-year-olds sit in the same classroom, and the late generations, together, strive to enjoy life and learning.
"They are the students with purest intentions," Tan said.
As China's population ages, with those 65 and older accounting for 13.5 percent of the total population as of 2020, the government proposed the establishment of national universities for seniors in the subsequent year. Ensuring a happy, safe, and meaningful life for the elderly will be a key direction for future efforts. These senior universities are just one aspect; in the future, industries supporting the elderly are anticipated to become more developed and comprehensive.
4.Has the Manufacturing Industry Become the "Straw" to Clutch for Fresh Graduates? 制造业成了应届生的「就业稻草」？
In China, the global manufacturing powerhouse, the manufacturing sector has always been important for cnontributing employment. However, the sector is not the top choice for young people seeking jobs. The article suggests that for college graduates struggling to find employment, entering the manufacturing sector becomes a "lifesaver" that offers them job opportunities. Although the working environment in modern manufacturing may differ from their preconceptions, the article emphasizes that the jobs in this sector are similar to those in other fields.
This is a report by 人物 [People], a magazine delving into topics that may not be mainstream but carry significance, providing in-depth analysis of individuals through sensitive and thorough interviews.
Some choose to leave, while others stay. Li Cai'er, a recent graduate, has been working for two months and feels like she has only scratched the surface of the industry. Recently, she was moved to a new position. Previously, she was responsible for the front-end of a project, such as production and design. Now, she is in charge of the back-end, including warehousing and delivery. The company has a flexible schedule, with a nominal start time of 9 AM, but in reality, there is room for adjustment. She is uncertain about the challenges she may face and starts feeling stressed.
Nevertheless, her two months of work experience have already changed her impression of the manufacturing sector. She has realized that the job is more attractive than she had imagined. She also noticed that the sector seems to embrace people from all walks of life. Skilled workers can start with a vocational education, and research and development professionals can be over 35 years old, with age being an advantage. Furthermore, employees in functional departments can come from various educational backgrounds.
One of her colleagues, who graduated from a non-prestigious university, is one year older than Li. One day, this colleague suddenly asked her, "Don't you feel disadvantaged coming here with a degree from the university in project 211?"
[Notes: Project 211 is a project of National Key Universities and colleges initiated in 1995 by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. Universities within this project are considered as National Key Universities. But in 2019, this project is replaced by the "double world-class project"]
At that moment, Li evaded the question. However, she later discovered that her colleague had a lot of energy, "like a sharp knife." During their graduation year, this colleague applied to both large and small companies without limiting herself, finally ending up in the same company as Li. When they both encountered technical challenges in research and development, this colleague in charge of procurement would proactively seek advice from the research and development team.
In the manufacturing sector, there are countless individuals like this colleague, who bring a kind of energy that Li has never experienced before. One colleague from research and development department spends the entire day in the operation room, leaving only after 8 p.m. Li noticed his "obsession" with assembling cars. For her, having a car assembled to about 70 to 80 percent would be sufficient, but he always strives for perfection. "Different parts can be assembled to create different cars, and we may discover new products through different methods," said the colleague, who has already "assembled" two cars.
What does it mean for recent graduates to enter the manufacturing sector? In 2022, China's investment in high-tech manufacturing increased by 22.2% from the previous year, maintaining the same growth rate. It’s a starting point and is part of the industrial transformation. No one underestimates the role of manufacturing in driving the future, but how to integrate into new trends is a challenge that new entrants must face.
"If you learn with hard work, you can still engage in cutting-edge technologies in the sector. It’s a real new world. If recent graduates come in with biases and feel deceived, that would be unfortunate," said Li, the newcomer to manufacturing. "Ultimately, it's not much different from working in other sectors."
For Wang Can, who has been working for a year, her work is on track. Her daily tasks include meetings, communication, and at least one visit to the workshop with clients each month. Sometimes, she has to work late until 8 or 9 p.m. if she receives a phone call from a client. She shuttles between Jiangsu and Shanghai, moving between the workshop and the office building. She can sense that the company's business is rapidly expanding. She heard that the company has already hired 400 people through campus recruitment this year and may recruit 800 people next year.
With the external environment fluctuating, she feels fortunate to be on a boat that may not be as shaky.
The saying "If you don't study hard, you'll end up as a factory worker" is widely circulated in China, and many Chinese students strive to study hard in order to secure respectable white-collar jobs. As a result, they often look down upon factory work in the manufacturing sector. In the past, factory work was associated with noisy and dirty environments, but modern automated factories have greatly improved working conditions.
Currently, China's economy is facing downward pressure, leading to increased job market competition and making it increasingly difficult to find satisfactory white-collar jobs. But on the other hand, there has been an improvement in compensation and an expansion of job opportunities in the manufacturing industry. University graduates who enter the manufacturing sector are gradually experiencing changes in their treatment. Perhaps in the future, there will be a shift in the perception that only low-performing individuals end up working in factories.
5.Inviting experts to vacation at northeast China's Beidaihe: A "meticulous arrangement" 邀请专家赴北戴河休假：一次“精心的安排”
Beidaihe, a scenic resort in north China's Hebei Province which has traditionally provided a relaxed setting for the Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders -- retired and incumbent -- to interact and hold discussions on the state of the nation, has since 1998 hosted an annual week-long summer vacation exclusively for the nation's top experts across diverse fields.
In 2023, 57 distinguished experts were selected for this honor, marking a continuity of 22 such retreats over 26 years. These experts come from various cutting-edge domestic technology fields, including artificial intelligence, life and health, aerospace technology, etc, which may highlight the focus of the Chinese government in the year. Beyond mere leisure, these vacations serve as platforms for intellectual exchange, alignment with national priorities, and the promotion of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Beidaihe vacation system is emblematic of China's unique approach to fostering and celebrating its leading minds.
The article comes from 南方周末 [Southern Weekly], Southern Weekly is considered one of the most outspoken newspaper in China. It is strongly recommended by liberal intellectuals and is said to contribute to public democratic debate and the formation of civil society. The New York Times has described the Southern Weekend as "China's most influential liberal newspaper".
sanatorium II, Beidaihe summer resort
During the vacation, there are many recreational activities for experts to choose from, such as collecting seashells on the beach, strolling, watching movies, etc. However, very few spent all their time on leisure; a significant portion was dedicated to group discussions and exchanges.
Not only did the experts engage in private discussions, the Talent Bureau under the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee also organized specific forums during the vacation, and central leaders would visit the experts as well.
When recalling the 2015 symposium, Yin Xuejun mentioned that he and other experts were informed about the symposium the evening before. The next day, dressed formally, they took turns speaking around a U-shaped table in the conference room.
"The main purpose was for everyone to introduce themselves, get to know one another, and then provide suggestions for the country based on their respective fields," Yin Xuejun remembered. There was no specific theme for the speeches.
When speaking, Yin Xuejun suggested that the traditional evaluation system for innovative achievements mainly focuses on published papers. However, this is not suitable for the engineering field. The system should also consider how many patents a company has introduced to the market, the total production value and taxes it has generated, and how many talents it has cultivated.
"In the past 20+ years, the technological level of my industry has advanced from being about 30 years behind the West when I returned to China in 1998, to now being at the forefront globally." Now, the vibration control technology of Yin Xuejun's team has been applied in over 9,000 projects across the country, including significant national projects like the wind-resistant design of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the vibration isolation of the turbine generator set of Ling Ao Power Plant Phase II turbines, and the vibration reduction for astronauts' treadmill training in the national space station.
To Yin Xuejun, the high-standard 6-day vacation was a crucial motivating factor. To this day, a large photo still hangs on the wall of his office, taken at the end of the symposium where central leaders shook hands with everyone, with a massive landscape painting in the background.
Which experts can go on vacation to Beidaihe? Based on the adjustments to the central focus of talent work, the themes and emphases vary each year.
In 2003, among the 100 experts invited, many were frontline medical experts fighting SARS and the leaders of the national SARS prevention and scientific research group. In 2006, after the issuance of the "No. 1 central document," the construction of new rural areas began. Therefore, the experts invited that year were primarily agricultural science and technology experts and practical talent for rural areas. In 2009, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, 60 representatives of talent who had innovated, started businesses, and excelled in various periods and fields since the establishment of PRC were invited.
In 2011, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China, 90 outstanding party member talent were specially invited, with the venue shifted to Jinggangshan, the "cradle of the Chinese revolution."
The theme for the 2023 vacation was "Resolutely aiming for greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology, dedicated to the great practice of Chinese modernization." The experts invited were outstanding representatives from China's cutting-edge technological fields.
Beidaihe's summer retreat tradition highlights China's way of honoring its top minds, blending relaxation with networking. The 2023 cohort, including maize expert Fan Xingming and others from diverse fields, suggests a broad recognition of expertise. This underscores policy-makers’ recognition of the paramount importance of specialized knowledge in shaping a nation's future.