China's jewelry industry finds an unconventional lifeline: livestreaming
Yang Jinghao, Luo Caiwen
03:01

‍Sun Qiying is a middleman in the cyber world – touting various jade pieces for retailers, and then bargaining for potential online buyers.

In the bustle and hustle each night, the young man tries to broker as many deals as he can through an unconventional method: livestreaming. 

"I choose to be a livestreamer because I love Internet stuff. I think it's a promising industry and it makes me feel excited and energetic every day," Sun, who used t be a real estate agent, told CGTN. He works from around 8 pm until 5 am every day.

Sun works in a jewelry market in Ruili in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Bordering Myanmar, the world's major jade supplier, the city arose as one of the nation's largest jewelry trading hubs in the 1990s. Over the past two decades, jewelry has also been one of the pillar industries of the city, a major habitat for China's Dai and Jingpo ethnic groups.

However, the business started shrinking several years ago.

Luo Yaying, a retailer-turned-livestreamer, witnessed how the Internet has injected new vitality into the ever-gloomy market in 2016.

"I could only sell about three or four pieces every day years ago. As a livestreamer, now I can help my clients sell some 30 items online each night," said Luo, adding that the advantages of the new mode are its convenience and transparency.

The Jiegao Yucheng market is one of the largest jewelry-trading centers in the city. During the day, people do business here in the traditional way. When the night falls, the stalls become the stage for the livestreaming hosts to showcase their eloquence and professional knowledge of jewelry.

The Jiegao Yucheng jewelry market at the China-Myanmar border attracts thousands of jewelry dealers and livestreamers every night. /CGTN Photo

The Jiegao Yucheng jewelry market at the China-Myanmar border attracts thousands of jewelry dealers and livestreamers every night. /CGTN Photo

Li Ruyun, an employee of the market management company, told CGTN that there are about 1,000 livestreamers who work in the market every day. They sell the dazzling valuables via different platforms, such as e-commerce giant Taobao, for thousands of jewelry dealers from both China and Myanmar.

Wang Jingui, a dealer who has done business in this market for about five years, said the new business model works a lot better and has brought him unexpected opportunities.

"We're in an Internet age, there are numerous viewers on online platforms. I used to sell goods worth some 200,00 to 300,000 yuan (29,000 to 44,000 U.S. dollars) at the booth each month. With the new channel, now the volume can reach more than one million yuan (145,000 U.S. dollars)," said Wang.

In the first quarter of this year, trade volume through livestreaming in the Jiegao Yucheng market alone totaled 1.06 billion yuan, or about 160 million U.S. dollars, a fast increase from the same period last year.

With the influx of more businessmen and livestreamers, understanding how to regulate the heated market is important, and also urgent.

"We adopt multiple management measures. For example, we've set up an online patrolling team to monitor any counterfeit products and any verbal misconduct from the streamers. Anyone in violation of the regulations will be punished," said Li, who is in charge of the e-commerce service at the market.

A livestreaming host sells jewelry for his clients from both China and Myanmar. /CGTN Photo

A livestreaming host sells jewelry for his clients from both China and Myanmar. /CGTN Photo

A report on China's Internet development released by the China Internet Network Information Center shows that the number of livestreaming users reached 425 million by June 2018, with a market value of about 50 billion yuan (7.3 billion U.S. dollars).

Today, the online broadcast mode is not merely a way for having fun. It is reshaping numerous industries in the country, as well as the lives of both businessmen and people like Sun.

"It's a profession that can make my dreams come true. I love it," Sun said.

(Cover: A livestreamer showcases a jewelry piece to viewers through a livestreaming platform. /CGTN Photo)