China’s Singles Day avoids the limelight

Business & Technology

How to run an event centered around rampant consumerism in the age of "common prosperity." This story is from the SupChina A.M. newsletter — sign up for free here.

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China’s biggest online shopping extravaganza kicked off yesterday with a low-profile evening party, a sharp contrast from the glamorous live performances by celebrities (including Taylor Swift) from years prior.

  • The big tech crackdown has left the ecommerce platforms — Alibaba and JD — cautious about cashing in on conspicuous consumption.
  • China’s carbon neutrality pledges have left some companies wary about a highly polluting event that generated 52,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2016, according to Greenpeace.
  • The supply chain crisis has also left some foreign brands anxious about filling a massive spike in Chinese orders.

The context: Singles day is a consumer romp of epic proportions. In 2020, Alibaba and JD recorded $115 billion in transactions, ten times the transactions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. last year.

The takeaway: The tonal shift comes on the heels of Xi’s “Common Prosperity” drive, which seeks to build a greener, fairer society. It also hews closely to the spirit of COP26 in Glasgow happening concurrently.