He Jiaolong, former deputy head of Zhaosu County, in Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, went viral in November 2020, when she appeared in a short video riding a horse in the snow to promote local tourism. In less than a year after she began selling specialty products via livestreams (in May 2020), she had gained 2.86 million followers on the short-video platform, Douyin, and she had helped sell products worth more than 10 million yuan (US $1.54 million). She has also organized various public-welfare activities that have benefited locals.
"Today, I will show you the Nalati flower valley. We welcome friends from all over the country to visit our flower valley," He says, during a short video. She posted the video on her Douyin account on April 12.
In April, He was named both a member of the Leading Party (Communist Party of China) Members' Group and deputy head of Ili Culture and Tourism Bureau. Since last November, when her video went viral, He has taken advantage of her online popularity to promote local products and tourism.
"We should make rational use of the huge, hard-won fan base on the social-media platform. We need to improve tourism services and related facilities, and give full play to the beautiful natural resources. Only in that way can we earn a good reputation among tourists, and ensure people have a long-term interest in our prefecture. "
"In the past, I didn't like the title of 'online celebrity.' But I accept it now. Being an online celebrity made me felt great pressure. But the locals told me, 'I didn't know what online celebrity was. From you, I know that online celebrity is one who helps locals sell products, who does charitable things and who promotes our hometown.' When I heard this, I found a reason to accept being an online celebrity," He says.
"As a civil servant, I will strive to do a good job in my new position. In terms of publicity work on the Internet, I will continue to do livestreams and create short videos. No matter where I go, my original intention remains the same; that is, promoting the beautiful scenery and products in my hometown," He adds.
An agricultural and sideline-product trade fair was held in the prefecture on May 20, 2020. Each city and county in the prefecture was required to appoint an official to promote and sell specialty products via livestreaming on Douyin. As deputy head of Zhaosu County, and as secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, He was appointed to promote and sell products made in Zhaosu.
As a newcomer to Douyin, He didn't have many followers in the beginning. To attract more fans, He began shooting high-quality short videos, and doing livestreams regularly. She gained between 500-2,000 new fans after each livestream. Within a few months, He had about 200,000 followers.
What caused He's sudden fame? The short video of her riding a horse in the snow. "At that time, two online celebrities visited Xinjiang. Both of them had about 1 million fans, and their short videos were very popular on Douyin. Zhaosu is dubbed the 'hometown of horses,' so I invited them to visit Zhaosu and to shoot some short videos to help us promote our tourism," He says.
On the day they shot the short videos, they rode horses together. Riding a horse is a basic skill for grassroots officials in Xinjiang, including He. She is a skilled rider. Wearing a white hat and red gown, she was like a heroine from ancient times.
Immediately after the short video was uploaded, it attracted the attention of netizens, many of whom wrote, "She is so dashing," and/or "Zhaosu is a beautiful place, and I'd like to go there." Soon, the number of her followers surpassed 1 million, and then 2 million.
|He Jiaolong's photo of riding a horse in the snow|
For People's Happiness
He's huge fan base has made a real difference for Zhaosu County. Her livestreams and short videos have helped boost the local tourism industry. An increasing number of tourists have visited the county during the past several months.
The products recommended in He's webcasting room, such as honey, cheese, canola oil and vermicelli (known as Zhaosu's four treasures), often sell out. The sales volume during a single livestream can exceed 2 million yuan (US $307,692). To date, given He's publicity efforts, agricultural and sideline products worth more than 10 million yuan (US $1.54 million) have been sold, both online and offline.
|He Jiaolong (R) helps sell specialty products made in Zhaosu via livestreaming platform.|
Seeing locals' smiling faces is the most satisfying thing for He. "The seniors like to praise me and say 'we support you' when they meet me. Sometimes, when I have dinner in restaurants, the owners say, 'Come to have dinner whenever you want, and we won't charge you.' The money must be paid, but their words make me feel warm. The people's happiness is what keeps me moving forward," He says.
She uses almost all of her spare time to do livestreams and shoot short videos. Sometimes, to produce high-quality short videos, she has to leave home before dawn to shoot in remote areas, and she sometimes has to work until midnight to edit the videos. As of April 23, He had released 216 short videos on Douyin, and those videos attracted more than 2.93 million followers and received more than 9.85 million likes.
Spreading Positive Energy
"My fans are like my family members. They always touch my heart," He says. One of He's fans likes to forward her short videos and post screenshots of He's livestreams on her own Douyin account. That is the unique way the fan records He's "growth" online.
During the establishment of the we-media matrix and the e-commerce and public-welfare teams in Zhaosu, He received great support from netizens across the country.
Some netizens helped He manage the routine work of the webcasting room, and others served as customer-service staff, to communicate with clients, sellers and logistics companies. They have told He that she represents positive energy in society, and that she embodies the good spirit of civil servants, and that is why they want to accompany and support her.
In addition to promoting tourism and selling products, He also shares her work and life experience with her fans.
He has received more than 1 million yuan (US $153,846) in tips from her followers. "All of the tips are used to promote public welfare, alleviate poverty and help people in need in the county, under the supervision of the county's discipline inspection commission," He says.
Proud of Being a Party Member
As a member of the Communist Party of China, He always wears a Party emblem during her livestreams. She says she is proud to be a Party member, and she is always ready to receive supervision from the public.
"I feel happy that I have the opportunity to display my capability on a social-media platform, and to help so many people in need," He says.
In March, a group of international companies announced their intention to boycott Xinjiang cotton. He supports Xinjiang cotton. "The annual output of Xinjiang cotton is more than 5 million tons, accounting for 87 percent of the total output in China. About 70 percent of the cotton farmers in Xinjiang are of minority ethnic groups. The cotton textile industry in Xinjiang employs nearly 600,000 local people. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang live and work in peace and contentment. We welcome people from all over the world to visit and invest in Xinjiang," she says.
He says she will keep improving herself. "I also plan to form a we-media matrix with online celebrities united together to promote the tourism resources and natural scenery of Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture," she says.
Photos Supplied by He Jiaolong
(Women of China English Monthly May 2021 issue)
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