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Alibaba is celebrating Singles Day again. The party may not last long


After 24 hours of frantic trading and weeks of promotional activities, Alibaba Group announced that its sales hit a record again during the Double 11 Shopping Festival (also known as Singles Day). Ten years ago, the Chinese e-commerce giant conceived the festival.


With China's huge economic growth slowing down, Alibaba seems to be hosting a party on an iceberg's imminent ship.


Meanwhile, some young Chinese shoppers seem less enthused this year about celebrating manic consumerism.


Yang Sun, a 26-year-old from the northern city of Xi’an, said that the Singles Day discounts were no longer good enough to persuade her to wait all year to buy the things she wanted. Wang Xin, 24, an engineer in Shanghai, said he had rediscovered the joys of shopping offline.


“Singles Day just doesn’t hold that much appeal for me,” Mr. Wang said


Asked about the current mood among Chinese consumers, Joseph C. Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, told reporters on Sunday that Alibaba should be understood in the context of the epochal rise of China’s middle class.


But Wall Street is still waiting for results, and has grown skeptical in the meantime of the costs of expanding into new areas. Alibaba’s shares have lost nearly one-third their value since June.


Singles Day 2018 showed that Alibaba remains, if nothing else, China’s king of hype. During the broadcast event, the M.C.s periodically encouraged people watching at home to open up their phones and check out the great deals. As acrobats with Cirque du Soleil twirled in midair, the logo of Kukahome, a Chinese furniture maker, shone brightly behind them.


At one point, the performer Liu Wei rapped out the specs of a new model of Skoda sport utility vehicle.


Anna Lin, a 25-year-old who works in finance in Shanghai, said she was feeling more lukewarm about the whole thing than in years past. Singles Day is now just one of many big shopping festivals each year, she said.


Plus, Ms. Lin said, the Singles Day promotions have become increasingly baroque. This year, there were coupons for specific items and brands, coupons that were available only at certain times of day, and coupons that appeared randomly and could be grabbed only by playing a game. Gathering friends into a team could help you collect even more coupons.


The company’s methods for ginning up excitement have come under scrutiny before. Two years ago, Alibaba said that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating it for the way it reports Singles Day sales. The company’s preferred metric, gross merchandise value, is supposed to represent the amount of money that changes hands on its platforms. But there is no standardized way of calculating it.

该公司提高购物兴奋度的方法之前已受到详细审查。两年前,阿里巴巴表示,美国证券交易委员会(United States Securities and Exchange Commission)正在调查它报告“双11”销售额的方式。该公司的首选指标是商品总价值,应该代表在其平台上转手的金额。但是它没有标准化的计算方法。

The company has since de-emphasized the number. But the episode illustrated the way that Alibaba sees itself — as a company that breaks the mold.


Ever since Alibaba listed its shares in New York four years ago, the company has used a sense of manifest destiny to beguile investors, stock analysts and an eager news media. China was on the long road to middle-class prosperity, the company said, and Alibaba had the biggest tollbooth. A bet on Alibaba was a bet on China itself.


Alibaba’s track record suggests that when the time comes, it will have no trouble pulling off another act of conjuring.


“I’m not worried about Alibaba at all,” said Steven Zhu, an analyst in Shanghai with the research firm Pacific Epoch. “These guys are really good at creating things from nothing.”

“我根本不担心阿里巴巴,”研究机构弘亚世代(Pacific Epoch)的上海分析师祝征宏说。“这些人真的擅长于从无到有创造事物。”