Red Star

Li Ziqi

The Chinese YouTuber that breaks Guinness World Record


Who is she?

Born in 1990 in Mianyang in Sichuan province, Li Ziqi has charmed audiences around the world with her cinematic and largely wordless videos that capture life in rural China. The theme is rustic and creative: in one post the 31 year-old hand-dyes a dress with grape juice and spins yarn with wool from a sheep raised in her backyard (for more about Li’s background see WiC480).

Li set a new Guinness World Record in February for “The Most Subscribed YouTube Chinese Channel” with 14.1 million followers, and the state-run media is also a fan. CCTV, the national broadcaster, pointed out Li’s videos “don’t boast about China, but simply tell Chinese stories well”.

Her audience numbers are significant, with 55.1 million followers on Bytedance’s Douyin, 27.7 million on Sina Weibo and 7.8 million on Bilibili. The rural influencer has since capitalised on her star power to launch a namesake food brand on Alibaba’s Tmall. Annual sales reportedly reached Rmb1.6 billion ($247.3 million) last year. Her most famous product is Luosifen, a rice noodle delicacy (see WiC488) that originated in Guangxi.

Why is she in the news again?

The internet giant Bytedance is another of Li’s fans. In early July, the parent company of TikTok announced that it had acquired a 1.5% stake in Weinian Brand Management, the agency that has been representing Li since 2017. The company also incubates other influencers, although Li is undisputedly the most successful under the firm’s management.

“Unlike most of the internet influencers, Li Ziqi did not take the more common path to monetisation by plugging products on livestreams and placing video ads. Instead, she has maintained superior quality in her content over the years. In fact, in an era that puts so much emphasis on speed, Li Ziqi’s rate of uploading new content is shockingly slow,” reckoned Niaoge Biji, a marketing news portal.

“But as a result she has also forged a path that is solely her own. She is not just China’s but also the world’s biggest intellectual property when it comes to the romanticism of country life. She is also one of the rare video-bloggers in China with global influence.”

The investment in Weinian is consistent with Bytedance’s previous approach in the influencer sector. In early 2020, it paid Rmb180 million for an 8.9% stake in Mountain Top, a talent manager for comedienne and short-video queen Papi Jiang (see WiC488).

“Since 2020, Bytedance has strategically invested in different sectors such as online literature and film and music. Its ultimate goal is to churn out high-quality IP content to realise traffic monetisation,” Chief Entertainment Officer, a blog, claimed.

Bytedance, which has also forayed into e-commerce, wants to tap the popularity of Li’s food brand. “E-commerce is the biggest opportunity Bytedance is currently pursuing and Li Ziqi is currently the biggest e-commerce influencer. Weinian already has experience in building the Li Ziqi food brand and merchandise selection, so the collaboration could be really broad. It is not implausible to believe that they could cultivate another influencer with Li Ziqi’s levels of popularity,” Niaoge Biji surmised.

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