Study Buddy: In China, live-stream sales success stretches from wealthy influencers to savvy farmers

  • While local governments and foreign diplomats have been joining China’s booming e-commerce platforms, tax evaders and vendors of dodgy products are on notice
  • Use the provided pre-reading activity, comprehension questions, vocabulary practice and writing prompt to test your understanding of the article
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Some believe e-commerce has huge potential to improve the living standards of low-income people in China. Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen

1. Pre-reading questions

1. Do you prefer to buy things online or in physical stores?

2. Do you ever watch live-stream broadcasts?

3. Do you think physical stores have a future?

2. Comprehension

Read the following text and answer questions 1-16.

Source: Adapted from “In China, live-stream sales success stretches from wealthy influencers to savvy farmers” by Jane Cai, South China Morning Post, 10 Jan 2022.

Austin Li Jiaqi, also known as “Lipstick Brother”, once sold 15,000 lipsticks in a single live-streaming session. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Questions (38 marks)

1. In line 3, who does “you” refer to?

2. Which of the following words best describes Austin Li Jiaqi during his broadcasts, according to paragraph 1?

A. animated
B. serious
C. nervous
D. easy-going

3. In line 7, what does “they” refer to?

4. According to the author “time-limited tactics” (line 6) ...

A. don’t work.
B. have been used for years.
C. are against the law.
D. are a good idea.

5. Complete the following chart based on paragraphs 1 to 3. (6 marks)

6. Find a word or phrase in paragraphs 1 to 3 that has a similar meaning to each word or phrase given below. (4 marks)

(i) moving his hands __________________
(ii) attractiveness or charm that inspires devotion __________________
(iii) increasing suddenly __________________
(iv) earned a lot of money __________________

7. In line 16, what does “that” refer to?

A. the number of viewers
B. the number of influencers
C. the money earned from sales in a year
D. the number of sales

8. Complete the summary below. Choose ONE word only from paragraphs 4 and 5 for each answer. Your answers must be grammatically correct. (4 marks)

In China, live-stream e-commerce increased by over 50 times between 2017 and 2020, and is expected to (i) ________________ this year since more viewers are willing to (ii) ________________ on what influencers are selling. (iii) ________________ in China are using live-stream e-commerce to sell their home countries’ products. For example, in November 2021, CCTV showed a live stream for 23 products from African and Asian countries, including pine nuts from (iv) ________________ .

9. According to Mei Xinyu in paragraph 6, which of the following is NOT true?

A. The US was ahead of China in television-based home shopping.
B. China is ahead in live e-commerce.
C. New regulations should result in slower growth in China’s live commerce.
D. Live commerce has peaked in China.

10. According to paragraph 7, what are four reasons for China’s success in live e-commerce? (4 marks)

(i) _______________________________________________
(ii) _______________________________________________
(iii) _______________________________________________
(iv) _______________________________________________

11. According to paragraph 8, what are two problems with the live-stream sector? (2 marks)

(i) _______________________________________________
(ii) _______________________________________________

12. What does Mei mean in line 40 when he says: “I don’t think the tighter grip means to suffocate the sector”?

A. More government control will not kill live commerce.
B. Tighter government control will hurt live commerce.
C. More regulations are needed for the live-stream sector to survive.
D. Live commerce will weaken the economy.

13. Find a phrase in paragraph 10 that means “slowing down”.

14. Decide whether the following statements are True, False, or the information is Not Given in paragraphs 10 and 11. (5 marks)

(i) Between April and September of last year, China’s GDP growth was negative.
(ii) The urban unemployment rate was also rising at that time.
(iii) E-commerce can help improve living standards of low-income Chinese people.
(iv) Kecheng is being used to test President Xi Jinping’s common prosperity drive.
(v) The government pays Manhe villagers to sell fungi.

15. What does “it” in line 52 refer to?

16. Following is a summary of Li Tianyu’s live-stream experience, explained in paragraph 12. Fill in the blanks with a word, year or number. (4 marks)

Chinese influencer Cherie (left) promotes Rwandan coffee with James Kimonyo (centre), the ambassador of Rwanda to China, at the Rwandan embassy. Photo: Handout

3. Vocabulary practice (10 marks)

  • allegedly (adv) (line 34) – thought to be true but without proof
  • charisma (n) (line 6) – a special personal charm that some people have to attract and impress other people
  • foster (vb) (line 51) – help something grow or develop
  • gesture (vb, n) (line 4) – use hand or arm movement to help express yourself
  • lag behind (phr vb) (line 24) – fail to keep pace
  • logistics (n) (line 28) – the business of transporting and delivering goods
  • peter out (phr vb) (line 43) – gradually slow down and then end
  • rake in (phr vb) (line 12) – earn a lot of money easily
  • scrutiny (n) (line 33) – careful examination of something
  • splurge (vb) (line 15) – spend a lot of money on things you don’t really need

Place one word or phrase from the box in each blank, using the correct form of the word.

1. Our aim is to ____________ better relations within the community to promote harmony and solidarity among residents.

2. We wanted to celebrate our friend’s new job, so we ____________ on a meal at an expensive restaurant.

3. Wages of retail workers ____________ the national average, so they are asking for a pay rise.

4. On average, top soccer players ____________ over £200,000 a week, allowing them to lead luxurious lives.

5. The ____________ of a large-scale show require detailed planning to avoid any delay in receiving the necessary stage equipment.

6. A pat on the back is a ____________ to recognise or thank someone.

7. All visitors going through customs at the airport are under careful ____________ to make sure nothing illegal has been brought into the country.

8. She was arrested for ____________ attacking several members of her personal staff and even a police officer.

9. Most of this rain is falling in short bursts and will ____________ by the evening. Therefore, we don’t need to cancel the barbecue.

10. Her ____________ and passion roused the other nurses, as she cared for the sick and helped mothers through childbirth.

4. Writing

Live streaming and live commerce have taken off in China, accelerated by pandemic control measures. You want your classmates to develop some of the skills needed to participate in this huge market while you are still in secondary school. Thus, you want to propose a video club to the principal for students to learn video and live-streaming skills together.

Write a proposal of about 400 words to the principal, Ms Chan, explaining why you would like the school to set up a video club. Tell her what kind of equipment you would need and what sorts of skills you aim to develop. Sign the proposal ‘Chris Wong’.

A villager promoting navel oranges via live stream in Fengjie County, Chongqing. Photo: Xinhua


1. Pre-reading questions – sample answers

1. Do you prefer to buy things online or in physical stores?

I don’t really have a preference. I like to do both. I like buying in physical stores because it is nice to look at and touch things in real life so that you are sure about what you are getting. But I sometimes buy things online to save money since things are generally a lot cheaper online.

2. Do you ever watch live-stream broadcasts?

No, I don’t have time for that. But I know some of my friends like to watch live streams where famous people discuss and sell their favourite products, but I won’t buy something just because a famous person tells me to. I prefer to do my own research about what products are best for me.

3. Do you think physical stores have a future?

In Hong Kong, I think they do. People like to shop here. It’s a way of life. And if the Covid-19 situation ever ends, it is mainly the physical stores that will help draw the tourists back. But in rural areas in the mainland, for example, I think physical stores will die.

2. Comprehension answers (38 marks)

1. Li’s online followers / viewers
2. A
3. Time-limited tactics
4. B
5. (i) Austin Li Jiaqi; (ii) 30; (iii) cosmetics shop assistant; (iv) Huang Wei (Viya); (v) 36; (vi) singer
6. (i) gesturing; (ii) charisma; (iii) surging; (iv) raked in
7. C
8. (i) double; (ii) splurge; (iii) Diplomats; (iv) Afghanistan
9. D
10. (i) sound internet infrastructure; (ii) advanced logistics system; (iii) world’s largest number of internet users; (iv) Consumers in China welcome the opportunity to pursue the best prices while engaging with opinion leaders
11. (i) Alleged tax evasion by live-streaming hosts; (ii) Substandard products / Product labelling issues
12. A
13. petering out
14. (i) F; (ii) NG; (iii) T; (iv) T; (v) F
15. the local) government of Kecheng
16. (i) broadcast; (ii) 35; (iii) 2020; (iv) 18

3. Vocabulary answers (10 marks)

1. foster
2. splurged
3. lag behind
4. rake in
5. logistics
6. gesture
7. scrutiny
8. allegedly
9. peter out
10. charisma

4. Writing – sample answer (406 words)

Proposed live-streaming and video club

Dear Principal Chan,

I would like to propose the launch of a new video club in our school to help students develop the video production and online communication skills needed to take part in the enormous live-stream commerce market in the mainland. This would prepare students for career advancement and for the possibility of starting their own business in the future. The sooner they learn the skills required for this technology, the better.

Club members would learn about the video production process, explore the impact of the live-stream industry in the mainland and study successful mainland live-stream hosts. We can use online resources to teach ourselves these skills, but if we can afford it, we should hire a professional video producer to give us hands-on classes in recording videos. We would do our own research on the most popular live-streaming technology and its different applications, such as product launches, web seminars and small business advertisements.

If we have 10 or 20 club members, we would share the workload, and each member could become a specialist in one area. We would give every member of the club a chance to do a live stream, and the other members would provide feedback for improvement. Perhaps we could also create a live stream for the entire school to get reactions from a much larger audience.

We would need a dedicated space, which could be quite small. But if this is not feasible, we could book the audiovisual room once a week for our club activities. We would also need lighting, cameras, audio equipment and computers. We could discuss this with Mr Leung, who is in charge of the A-V room and equipment, to see if he would allow us to use the school’s equipment and if it is sufficient for quality live-stream videos. If not, we may need to buy quality audio and video equipment. But of course, this would not be used only by us. It would be available for the whole school.

We already have about 10 students interested in forming a club. I think many more will be interested if you give us the go-ahead. I would be happy to sit down and discuss this further with you.

We sincerely hope that this proposal will get the school’s approval so preparations can start as early as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Wong

Sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

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