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Taylor Swift is heading to China to perform at Alibaba Group’s annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza next month.
The pop star will perform at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on the evening of Nov. 10, along with a lineup of prominent stars and personalities from China and other parts of Asia. Among the acts slated to shill online shopping for Alibaba are Chinese singer-songwriter and actress G.E.M., local pop star Hua Chenyu, Japanese singer Kana Hanazawa and over a dozen others.
More than a few U.S. sports and entertainment figures — including Scarlett Johansson, David Beckham, Mariah Carey and Daniel Craig — have flocked to the Alibaba-produced spectacle in years past to build their brands among Chinese consumers. But in recent months, U.S. celebrities’ eagerness to please the Chinese government and the country’s enormous consumer base have begun to be viewed with more skepticism by the U.S. public.
After Beijing’s recent heavy-handed attempts to squash free speech beyond its borders — such as the NBA’s serious travails over a general manager’s single tweet of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and the erasure of South Park from the Chinese Internet because of a satirical episode — many U.S. politicians have questioned whether the Beijing regime’s global political messaging should be so readily accommodated given its various ongoing human rights abuses.
Singles’ Day was invented in the 1990s as an alternate to Valentine’s Day, since the date on which it is held, 11/11, appears graphically as the loneliest of calendar numbers. In 2009, Alibaba struck on the ingenious marketing ploy of encouraging Chinese consumers to purchase themselves a treat, or several, on Singles’ Day (in that sense, it’s arguably the most selfish of holidays, too). Alibaba’s first Singles’ Day promotion, designed to drum up sales for the company’s upstart Tmall service (Amazon with Chinese characteristics), scored $7.7 million in revenue.
Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Gala Show, held each year on Nov. 10 and broadcast live across China, has since grown into a hybrid spectacle combining elements of a pop concert with a variety show, the New Year’s Eve countdown and the Home Shopping Network. The show features appearances, skits and performances involving local and international celebs — past participants have included Kobe Bryant, Kevin Spacey, Nicole Kidman and others — and builds up to midnight, when Alibaba launches cut-rate sales across its various e-commerce services, encouraging viewers at home to buy, buy, buy.
In recent years, the shopping extravaganza has generated more revenue than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Last year’s event, resulted in $30 billion in sales over Alibaba’s platforms in just 24 hours.
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