China has launched a campaign to curb the online display of luxurious lifestyles by social media influencers. The move, part of the Clear and Bright initiative started in April, aims to remove undesirable content and discourage “money worship” and “vulgar” content on social media platforms.

The China crackdown of display of luxury on social media

Influencers Affected by the Ban

Among those targeted is Wang Hongquan, a jeweller and content creator with over four million followers on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok. Known for showcasing designer outfits, first-class flights, and an extensive jade jewellery collection, Wang’s account has been blocked for violating community guidelines. Similarly, other influencers like Sister Abalone, who displayed her lavish mansion and diamond necklaces, and Young Master Bo, known for flaunting Rolls-Royces and rare Hermes Birkin bags, have also seen their accounts disabled.

Douyin’s New Guidelines

Douyin has announced it will also crack down on fake “hot events” designed to boost views, such as staged medical crises and domestic disputes. The platform emphasised that creators should record authentic and positive content. This aligns with the broader objectives of China’s Communist government, which has been tightening control over social media to promote “common prosperity” and reduce economic inequality.

Also Read: Dharna Durga Earns A Spotlight on Instagram’s Creators Page

Background and Government Stance

The initiative comes under the broader common prosperity agenda spearheaded by President Xi Jinping. This agenda seeks to address economic disparity, which has led to substantial penalties for influencers found guilty of tax evasion. For instance, Viya, a top livestreaming influencer, was fined $204 million for tax evasion in 2021.

Viya, a luxury influencer was one of initial targets of China Crackdown

The Cyberspace Administration of China has ruled that social media users should not create ostentatious personas. This crackdown has elicited mixed reactions. While some applaud the effort to curtail materialism, others view it as excessive government control over online content.

Public Reaction and Expert Opinions

Opinions on the new regulations are divided. Some praise the government’s efforts to curb materialism, especially during economic slowdowns, and believe this enhances the moral stance of the authorities. Others argue that the crackdown represents an overreach of government power, stifling freedom of expression and creativity on social media platforms.

Carwyn Morris, an expert on Chinese internet policy at Leiden University, noted that the initiative might be perceived positively by those who view such content as vulgar. He emphasised that the government’s actions might be seen as more moral and upstanding during economic hardships.

Is the Crackdown Justified?

The Chinese government’s decision to curb displays of wealth on social media raises questions about the balance between regulation and freedom of expression. On one hand, the move addresses valid concerns about materialism and economic disparity. Extravagant displays of wealth can indeed have a negative impact on society, especially on impressionable teenagers. The Clear and Bright campaign seeks to promote a more equitable society by discouraging the glorification of luxury and excess.

However, there is also a significant downside to such stringent regulation. Social media platforms are a space for creative expression and personal branding. Influencers, like any other content creators, have the right to share their lifestyles and experiences. By imposing heavy restrictions, the government risks stifling creativity and limiting the diversity of content available to users.

Is The China Crackdown of luxury influencers justified?

Moreover, this crackdown could be seen as part of a broader trend of increasing government control over the internet. While promoting positive values is important, it should not come at the cost of individual freedoms. The line between regulating harmful content and censoring personal expression is thin, and it is crucial to tread carefully.

In conclusion, while the intentions behind the crackdown on ostentatious displays of wealth are understandable, the approach raises concerns about excessive control and the suppression of personal freedom. A more balanced strategy that addresses materialism without stifling creativity and expression would be a more effective solution.