A broken land: Oriental Selection faces crises again

A little more than 6 months after the Dong Yuhui incident forced Oriental Selection to part ways with its top livestreamer, the educator-turned-livestream e-commerce player is once again embroiled in controversy.

It has been reported that since CEO Yu Minhong called the post-Dong channel “a mess”, the main account of Oriental Selection has lost 400,000 followers in less than a month. On Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, the topic “Oriental Selection keeps apologising, what happened” (#不停道歉的东方甄选怎么了#) shot to the top of the Hot Search list with 19.23 million views.

The current chapter of the Oriental Selection saga began on 22 June at Oriental Selection’s Guizhou livestream. On the livestream, host Ming Ming used the phrase, “山河破碎” (lit. a broken land, famously used to describe China being invaded by its neighbours and in civil war) to describe the province.

Ming Ming likely tried to describe the Sublime South China Karst that runs in Guizhou and its neighbours, but the term, along with host YoYo teasing about the hot weather and spiders in Guizhou, seemed to anger local travel authorities and resulted in all promotional Oriental Selection content to be deleted from their official account. Almost simultaneously, rumours circulated about Oriental Selection charging the Guizhou Tourism Administration extortionate fees for its promotion of the province, which the company denied. The two incidents produced several Hot Searches. “Guizhou Culture and Tourism deletes all Oriental Selection-related videos” topped the list with 290 million views.

But the climax of the event was when Oriental Selection host Dundun who held a livestream on 26 June, openly criticised the company.  He complained that the company’s decisions were not transparent and new accounts for streamers were being opened without consulting them first. He also accusing the PR department of not doing enough during controversies like now. Being criticised by one of their own reminded many of the Dong Yuhui incident last year when Dong dismissed the writer team and the writers struck back.

Pundits think the current PR woes of Oriental Selection are still a symptom of the brand losing its direction after Dong opened his own channel. The question is whether to continue with its cultured, educated and informational image or switch to a livestreamer-centric influencer strategy. Whichever way Yu Minhong chooses, many agree it is better than delaying the decision any further.

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