Previous 12 months, Jessica Tian, a journal editor in Beijing, was purchasing for an engagement ring with her then-fiancé. She determined to look for tips on Chinese social media and e-commerce system Xiaohongshu: Which ring really should she go for? A .8-carat Tiffany or a .7-carat Harry Winston?
Just after dozens of other Xiaohongshu end users commented on her publish, she decided to go with the latter. “I was leaning in direction of Tiffany,” the 29-year-old advised Rest of Globe. “But I altered my thoughts following looking at the responses.”
On Xiaohongshu, translated in Chinese as “little crimson reserve,” consumers like Tian are in a position to find answers to all sorts of questions that a young Chinese woman could question: What ought to a person purchase at the most popular new bubble tea chain? What medicines heal menstrual cramps? How do you thoroughly clean phony eyelashes? How do you break up with anyone without having hurting them? Alongside with selecting her engagement ring, Tian employed the app to decide on cat food, an electric car, a h2o heater, and flooring tiles for her new condominium. “I would not have confidence in anything if no one particular has reviewed it on Xiaohongshu,” Tian mentioned.
Founded in 2013 as a Hong Kong-particular information for rich, mainly female vacationers wanting for buying recommendations, Xiaohongshu has considering the fact that expanded into a platform with 200 million month to month active people, who use the application to share strategies on every little thing from dieting to relationship to language finding out. Information and facts has turn into so abundant and numerous on Xiaohongshu that numerous buyers — young, affluent, urban, and predominantly female — use it as their key lookup motor. In a statement to Rest of World, the corporation explained alone as a “lifestyle bible.”
For city Chinese youth right now, Xiaohongshu has come to be the go-to tutorial on how to stay superior by purchasing far more. Its enthusiasts describe Xiaohongshu as a females-welcoming neighborhood with shared aspirations, though critics have named it a consumerist trap that suffocates the youthful generation with unrealistic expectations.
“Xiaohongshu is a platform that totally embraces consumerist culture,” Jia Guo, a PhD prospect at the University of Sydney who has researched Xiaohongshu influencers, advised Relaxation of Planet. “It demonstrates users’ aspiration for a polished, bougie, center-class way of daily life.”
Just like short-movie system Douyin and e-commerce system Taobao motivate people today to shop as a result of viral videos and livestreams, Xiaohongshu has created a valuable organization design that delivers with each other social media and e-commerce. Its feed features an infinite scroll of Instagram-like posts, driven by TikTok-model suggestions. Users research on the application for specific products or lifetime hacks — more than half of Xiaohongshu’s day by day energetic people used the look for operate in 2022, the enterprise stated — and then get fed relevant material.
The app’s attract lies in its “grass-planting” electrical power, slang for the effect that tends to make another person want to acquire a certain item. People are in a position to uncover products and solutions reviewed by their friends, which are used in their make-up routines, their outfits of the day, and journey weblogs — more attractive than individuals promoted by specific advertising and marketing. ByteDance has launched the Xiaohongshu-like application Lemon8 abroad, making an attempt to replicate the grass-planting outcome in nations around the world like Japan, the U.S., and the U.K.
Chinese people today look at Xiaohongshu to be jingzhi, or polished. The app entices buyers by presenting an idealized urban lifestyle — filled with elaborate skincare routines, weekend brunches, and overseas holidays — that remains out of attain for several.
Xiaohongshu influencer Anna Chen, a 22-yr-old mainland Chinese school university student in Hong Kong, has amassed much more than 50,000 followers by submitting about handbags, an omakase meal, and her expertise attending summer months faculty at the prestigious Peking College. She collaborates with manufacturers, this kind of as an eyeglasses store and a pharmacy, by submitting photographs of herself with their goods, and constantly appreciates which digicam angle makes her legs glimpse extensive and her deal with glimpse little. “People on Xiaohongshu want to see a polished and self-disciplined way of daily life,” she instructed Relaxation of Globe.
Xiaohongshu’s emphasis on the great importance of bodily splendor and individual achievement could also be dangerous. Research indicates the seriously retouched pics posted by Xiaohongshu influencers make youthful females much more sad about their possess bodies. Yixuan Liu, a PhD applicant at the University of Texas at Austin, who examined how mothers sought wellness suggestions on Xiaohongshu following providing start, told Rest of Environment the impeccable shots posted by babycare influencers gave females unattainable anticipations about their bodies soon after childbirth.
Xiaohongshu has succeeded as a final result of Chinese people’s climbing purchasing electrical power and their aspiration to live a cosmopolitan life style, according to Sheng Zou, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist College who researches media and politics in China. But as extra younger men and women convert to Xiaohongshu as their principal social network, Zou reported they threat staying trapped in a social atmosphere dominated by consumerism.
While social media web sites this sort of as Weibo, even with rigid censorship, provide as town halls of general public discourse to focus on almost everything from existing situations to celeb gossip, Xiaohongshu functions like a giant shopping mall, where by customers explain to every other what to purchase, via glamorous pics, adorable emojis, and enthusiastic headlines. A bowl of ramen is “mind-blowingly delightful.” Cherry blossoms in the japanese city of Hangzhou reach “the ceiling of romance.” “I virtually fell in like because of this smell,” one Xiaohongshu person reported of a material softener.
Enterprises at times employ the service of influencers and ghostwriters to bulk-deliver beneficial testimonials. Enthusiast, a ghostwriter dependent in the northeastern town of Changchun, explained to Relaxation of Environment she could create far more than 50 Xiaohongshu posts a working day, with headlines this kind of as “Algorithm, be sure to force this to all my sisters!” or “I regret not getting found it before!”
The 30-year-outdated Enthusiast, who desired to be determined only by her last name for fear of being recognized by her businesses, reported she took caffeine capsules to get herself into the kind of exhilarating mood that generates Xiaohongshu clicks. “You truly feel excited and shaky. Your facial area burns,” she said. “It’s what readers are intended to come to feel when they go through posts, like they are large on medication.”
Despite the fact that Xiaohongshu articles revolves close to buying, the application is not immune from point out censorship. Even usage desires to be reined in at instances. Just after China’s online watchdog warned against on the internet written content selling wealth and extravagance, Xiaohongshu launched strategies in opposition to flaunting prosperity, bogus testimonials, and extremely retouched pics. “If you are comparatively wealthier, please be empathetic and choose into account the feelings of other people when sharing your articles,” its group guidelines point out. Xiaohongshu suggests it also has a group to beat bogus advertising and marketing, these types of as ghostwriting.
The platform’s expanding consumer foundation has also allowed for communities to kind around passions other than just buying. “At to start with, Xiaohongshu was about showing off a privileged lifestyle, and earning absolutely everyone else want that,” Luo Kai, co-founder of Shanghai-primarily based influencer company Tomatogo, advised Relaxation of Entire world. “As far more creators be part of, they are bringing new hobbies and styles to the application.”
Blue-collar employees trade reviews about digital factories. Queer communities share coming-out tales. Cooking fans swap household recipes. Icelandic language learners can discover vocabulary lists, and connect with fellow learners on the app.
But woman consumers and their “grass-planting” discussions will continue to be the most important commercial asset for Xiaohongshu, Luo stated. In spite of attempts to diversify, Xiaohongshu’s person base is substantially more youthful, wealthier, and extra city than the typical Chinese individual. In October 2021, 70% of its users have been women of all ages and 72% had been underneath 30 decades old, the company instructed Relaxation of World. Half its people appear from China’s first- and next-tier cities, the place only 30% of Chinese persons resided in 2020.
Outside of the major towns and the affluent middle class, some younger folks are turning into disillusioned with Xiaohongshu, and the strategy that a much better life-style can be acquired.
Angel Wang, a 16-yr-aged significant school university student from Changchun, decided to give up Xiaohongshu in January. She was jealous of the attractive influencers, their indulgent lifestyles, and perfect households, Wang advised Rest of Earth. She also struggled to resist all the lipstick and snack recommendations that the application pushed her to purchase. “But I just can’t just hold acquiring matters,” she said. “So I just shut them out.”