Foreign Brands Attract More Chinese Consumers on China’s Livestream Shopping Platforms

Chinese consumers trust foreign brands more than domestic products
By Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin is a Chinese expatriate living in New Zealand. He has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009, with a focus on China-related topics.
and Ellen Wan
Ellen Wan
Ellen Wan
Ellen Wan has worked for the Japanese edition of The Epoch Times since 2007.
December 7, 2021 Updated: December 7, 2021

Livestream shopping has become a new consumer trend in China, with ambassadors from around the world invited to promote their specialty products to Chinese consumers, oftentimes resulting in hot sales.

One expert noted that this trend reflects Chinese consumers’ distrust in domestic brands.

This online shopping method became popular in the past two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Chinese state-owned Xinhua News, ambassadors to China from countries like Benin, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania have joined in this new shopping trend.

“From initial curiosity to enthusiasm, many ambassadors quickly fell in love with live commerce to promote their countries’ specialty products,” Xinhua reported on Nov. 29.

Livestream sales events hosted by ambassadors, such as Palitha Kohona of Sri Lanka, James Kimonyo of Rwanda, and Teshome Toga of Ethiopia, promoted products that sold out almost instantly.

For example, on Jan. 6, 2020, Ambassador Kimonyo promoted 1,500 kilograms of coffee beans on a livestreaming room hosted by Taobao, an online Chinese shopping platform. The coffee was sold out within minutes.

“This was fascinating, I couldn’t believe how fast it went,” said Kimonyo, as quoted by various Chinese media.

He later appeared at Taobao’s livestream room on three occasions, and added Rwanda’s hot chili sauce to his live promotion product line.

Similarly, Ambassador Kohana promoted Ceylon black tea, Sri Lankan cookies, and red wine from a livestream room at the 4th China International Import Expo that was held early last month. The tea was sold out shortly after livestream began.

Chinese Consumer Distrust

The popularity of this kind of livestream shopping is most likely a reflection of the lack of trust that Chinese consumers have in the country’s merchants, said Chinese political commentator Xia Yifan.

“Whether it’s Ceylon black tea or coffee beans, these products are not in the category of scarce commodities,” Xia told The Epoch Times.

What makes the sales so great is the presence of those ambassadors, Xia said. The ambassadors’ presence secures the credibility of these products. In an environment where the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot be trusted, consumer confidence is low. Business transactions often lack transparency and if any disputes arise from a sale, there’s no way to guarantee a fair resolution, he said.

As an example, Xia mentioned electronic toilet seats made in Japan. In early 2015, they became a hot sales item for Chinese tourists visiting Japan. Xia said it’s a matter of trust.

“Chinese people can’t trust their own people, and that’s the root of the problem. This is why Chinese consumers looking to buy a toilet seat will even go to Japan to buy one.”

Xia continued: “Under the rule of the CCP, everything can be faked, officials can be bought off, and justice is often absent if consumers become victims. It can be seen that the level of trust between [the Chinese] people is very low. This is caused by the CCP’s system, and the financial loss from the lack of trust is immeasurable.”

Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin is a Chinese expatriate living in New Zealand. He has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009, with a focus on China-related topics.
Ellen Wan
Ellen Wan has worked for the Japanese edition of The Epoch Times since 2007.