Just when it feels the dust has settled on China’s regulatory crackdown on its tech sector, the authorities are shifting focus to another part of the country’s digital industry – live-streaming.
SCMP reports that China has issued new regulation on the live-streaming industry that lists 31 banned behaviors, limiting topics that influencers can talk about.
The latest move complements the government’s efforts since 2021 to regulate the booming digital economy. Other sectors of the tech industry, including payment, ride-hailing and edtech, have been severely dealt with as the government intensified efforts to clip wings and keep everything under the control of the Communist Party.
With the tech giants put in their place, China is shifting attention to live-streaming activities that have not only recorded huge success in recent times, but have empowered individuals to speak at will.
In a further report below, the SCMP highlights the 18-point guideline published by the National Radio and Television Administration and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Wednesday. It requires influencers to have relevant qualifications to discuss some topics, such as law, finance, medicine and education, although authorities did not specify the qualifications needed.
The 31 banned behaviors during live-streaming sessions include publishing content that weakens or distorts the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the socialist system or the country’s reforms and opening-up.
Other prohibited behaviors include using deepfake technologies to tamper with the images of party or state leaders, and deliberately “hyping up” sensitive issues and attracting public attention.
Live-streamers are also forbidden from showing an extravagant lifestyle, such as displaying luxury products and cash, the guideline said.
The new regulation comes as the live-streaming e-commerce industry is undergoing rapid changes amid tightened scrutiny and economic headwinds.
Some of the most popular live-streamers on Taobao Live, Alibaba Group Holding’s live-streaming e-commerce platform, have fallen from grace for various reasons, leaving brands scrambling to look for new ways to market their products.
Austin Li Jiaqi, known as China’s “lipstick king” for once selling 15,000 tubes of lipstick in just five minutes, abruptly ended a live-streaming session on June 3, after he reportedly displayed a tank-shaped ice cream. The tank image is a frequent target of Chinese censors due to its association with the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown by China’s military against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
Huang Wei, widely known as Viya, was fined a record 1.3 billion yuan (US$210 million) for tax evasion late last year, and has since disappeared from public view. This came after Zhu Chenhui and Lin Shanshan, two top influencers who were each fined tens of millions of yuan in November for tax evasion, also saw their social media accounts and e-commerce shops vanish.
Wednesday’s new guidelines stress that live-streamers should declare their income honestly and fulfill their tax obligations in accordance with the law.
The rules also direct platforms to refrain from giving public figures who have violated the law or shown “no ethics”, the opportunity to express their opinions publicly, hold performances, create a new account or switch to another platform.
China’s determination to regulate its digital industry has come at a heavy price, with billions of dollars lost as the crackdown forces the companies to make adjustments resulting in losses. Although this latest move will bear the same price, especially as China’s economy is battling resurgence of covid-19, Beijing has shown that what matters more is to bring every sector of its economy under the watchful eyes of the Communist Party.