The appearance of Chinese influencers and the origin of covid

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No one could have predicted how quickly three of China’s most powerful influencers would fall. On June 3, Austin Li, a 30-year-old livestreamer with more than 60 million followers, abruptly cut off a livestream after a tank-shaped ice cream dessert appeared on screen. Although he later posted that it was due to “technical issues,” most people understand that it triggered government censorship, which interpreted it as referring to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Li is not known to have been arrested and his account remains active, but he has not streamed or posted on social media since then. Fans suspect he may not be allowed to stream anymore.

Live streaming e-commerce in China is a huge industry worth more than $180 billion. Influencers like Li have risen to match the popularity of A-list celebrities, and have been known to enable billions of dollars worth of online purchases in one night.

But in Li’s and at least two other cases, these online empires were toppled overnight in what appears to be a government crackdown extending through the end of 2021 — suggesting a reckoning is in progress. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

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