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Postcard from... Beijing


It's far from the best-known date in the Chinese calendar, but Singles' Day this year threatened to overshadow even the Communist Party Congress in Beijing, as online shoppers made it the biggest e-commerce day in history. Singles' Day is based on the date 11 November, or “11.11”, or four singles. The idea was that unattached young people would treat each other to dinner or give gifts to woo that special someone and end their single status. It became a major shopping event as sellers of everything from jewellery to TVs to cars saw a marketing opportunity and launched Singles' Day sales.

And what an event it was. Consumers spent eight billion yuan (£810m) in the first eight hours alone, more than the total amount sold on Cyber Monday, a US post-Thanksgiving online spree when sellers offer discounts to woo the punters. The Global Times newspaper acknowledged the importance of boosting consumption, but also bemoaned how the number of single men and women in China had reached 180 million.

"The social problems that singles are facing may soon be neglected. These problems should not be covered by commercialisation of Singles' Day, but require long-term public attention and thought," it said.