Discover China: Border city’s jade biz flourishes in livestreaming era

KUNMING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) — It was almost midnight and the livestreaming sessions were still going strong in a Chinese jade market. The market was bustling with hordes of jade dealers and livestreamers, and you could hear excited shouts of “Deal!” from time to time.

Welcome to the Jiegao Jade Market in southwest China’s border city of Ruili, a 22,000-square-meter jewelry bazaar that transforms into a “livestreaming base” every night, hosting more than 1,000 livestreamers who negotiate the price of jade crafts between dealers and a huge number of jade lovers across China.

“This pair of well-crafted earrings has a pure green color and good transparency. It fits fair skin. The seller is asking for 8,000 yuan (about 1,160 U.S. dollars),” said livestreamer Luo Yaying in the market to her viewers via a smartphone.

While informing the viewers of the price and quality, she used an electronic scale to measure the earrings and adjusted the phone’s magnifying lens to show the details.

“One shopper offered 6,600 yuan. Is it OK?” Luo asked the seller standing beside her.

“Jade of this quality can’t be sold for lower than 7,000 yuan!” the seller protested, but Luo’s viewers did not offer a higher price. “Fine, I’ll take 6,600 yuan,” said the seller after a few seconds.

“Deal!” Luo said, letting out a sigh of relief. For every jade piece sold, she receives a commission of 5 percent of the final price.

Luo, who gave up her job as a jade retailer to become a livestreamer in 2018, has nearly 60,000 followers on Taobao Live, the livestreaming platform of one of China’s biggest online marketplaces Taobao. Her daily livestreaming session usually starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs until well past midnight.

“It is tiring work, and my voice often gets hoarse after long hours of livestreaming,” Luo said. “But I helped sell jade crafts worth over 10 million yuan online last year, more than double that of when I ran a brick-and-mortar jade shop years ago.”


Luo is among the tens of thousands of people who are cashing in on the livestreaming boom in Ruili, as the new model of online shopping has revived the city’s famous jade industry.

Bordering Myanmar, the world’s major jade producer, Ruili of Yunnan Province thrived as one of the country’s largest jade trading hubs in the 1990s and has since been widely called the “City of Jade.”

However, the city’s jade industry started to shrink in 2014. “The influx of hot money into Ruili’s jade market between 2007 and 2013 significantly pushed up the price of jade. As consumers have become more knowledgeable since 2014, the market began to cool off,” said Chen Hui, president of the Ruili Gem and Jade Association.

Ruili’s jade sales declined at double-digit rates annually between 2014 and 2016, according to Chen.

“At that time, some of our market’s jade stores would only sell one piece of jade in 10 days,” said Li Yuechao, vice chairman of the company that owns the Jiegao Jade Market, which hosts 200-plus physical jade shops.

Things started to turn around for Ruili’s sluggish jade industry at the end of 2016, thanks to the emergence of the livestreaming business model.

Li said there were no more than five livestreamers in his market by the end of 2016, but the new business model has flourished since 2017, with most of his market’s jade retailers jumping on the bandwagon.

“Livestreaming has helped drive up our sales,” Li said. “In 2018, our market’s jade sales via Taobao Live reached 1.6 billion yuan, a huge increase from 2016.”

Such a livestreaming craze has swept the whole city of Ruili. The “City of Jade” now has nine livestreaming bases like the Jiegao Jade Market and more than 60,000 people are involved in the livestreaming industry.

The city’s jade sales through livestreaming platforms are estimated to have exceeded 10 billion yuan last year, according to the Ruili municipal office of the cultural industry.

“Livestreaming provides convenience for online shoppers as it shortens the distance between sellers and buyers,” said Luo.

She added that the pricing process has become more transparent under the more interactive business model, so the profit margin of a single jade piece has been reduced. “But we’re selling much more jade pieces than before, so our sales have continued to grow rapidly.”

Chen said the livestreaming model has proved especially effective in promoting the sales of medium- and low-end jade crafts valued below 10,000 yuan.

“Livestreaming has indeed injected fresh vitality into Ruili’s jade industry,” he added.


With an increasing number of people diving into the new form of e-commerce, problems have also arisen.

Li said his market received many customer complaints about counterfeit and low-quality products as well as livestreamers making exaggerated claims in 2016 and 2017 when livestreaming first emerged in the market.

In light of the irregularities, local authorities and jade markets in Ruili, as well as livestreaming platforms, have joined hands in regulating the booming sector since 2018.

“All livestreamers are now required to register with the jade market before going on air as per a regulation issued by the local government,” Li said. “They will be blacklisted by livestreaming platforms in the case of false or exaggerated advertising.”

Li’s jade market has also established a patrol team to monitor fake products and livestreamers’ misconduct.

Besides, every jade piece sold online by Ruili’s livestreamers is required to obtain a quality certificate from independent testing organizations before being delivered to its buyer.

Li said his market received very few complaints last year thanks to these regulatory measures.

“It’s safe to say Ruili’s jade business is under better regulation in the ‘livestreaming era’ than in the old ‘brick-and-mortar era,'” Chen said. Enditem

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