China's New Culture of Cool: Understanding the world's fastest-growing marketSe describen cuatro modelos de jóvenes contemporáneos, y sus hábitos de consumo:
When China opened its borders to travelers and its economy to international trade, businesses all over the world took note. With well over one billion people, it represented a huge potential marketplace for goods and services. Huge as it is, however, China is not a monolithic culture. Though deeply rooted in native traditions, its contemporary marketplace is eclectic, combining Chinese regional styles with elements borrowed from foreign cultures. Most of all, it is evolving at a remarkable pace. To succeed in that dynamic emerging market, smart businesses need to understand its driving influences—especially its urban youth.
Authors Lianne Yu, Cynthia Chan, and Christopher Ireland bring their collective experience and perspective to this thoughtful, beautifully illustrated analysis of the world’s fastest-growing market. Focusing on four fundamental aspects of the consumer Chinese lifestyle—food, style, home life, and mobility—they show how Chinese culture is speedily developing into a radically new form. Anyone who is interested in expanding his or her business in China should not miss this analysis.
We’ve summed up young China’s motivations in four simple principles—individuality, new experiences, social connection, and contribution to China’s success—but we’re not suggesting that the new Chinese consumer class is as homogenous or as easily influenced as the American consumer of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, predicting the consumer habits of China’s early adopters is particularly challenging right now because this generation is diverse and highly experimental.
With those caveats in mind, we introduce four composite characters—two young men, Wang Liang and Li Hua Min, and two young women, Ding Li and Chen Hong—who collectively represent the hundreds of young trendsetting Chinese we’ve met, observed, and interviewed in person over the past ten years. Though each is fictitious, building stories around their lives allows us to make them real and understandable in a way that numbers and statistics alone cannot. As such, they will reappear throughout the book to serve as examples and guides in the sections on style, food, living, and mobility, or as they would refer to those topics, Yi Shi Zhu Xing.
Los cuatro caracteres:
Ding Li, The PlaygirlEstos perfiles imaginarios no resultan extraños a las realidades intuídas; pero sí son lejanos a las referencias formales, a las estructuras políticas oficiales. En un país complejo e inabarcable, el futuro está en manos de cada uno de sus componentes, que modelarán la próxima sociedad. En algún momento, China deberá resolver la distancia entre su estructura formal, y el país real que se está horneando rápidamente. Cuando se examina la diferencia entre India y China, estos componentes informales deben ser tomados en cuenta: la ventaja del entrepeneurismo indio puede ser relativa.
Ding Li is 18 years old and lives to socialize with her friends. She rarely sees her busy parents, but they make sure she has plenty of money, which she happily spends on fashion and food. Her hair is streaked with copper highlights this month and her skin is pale and fair, just like her favorite Korean soap opera star, Song Hye Kyo. Her tiny dog, Xiao Bao (“little precious”), is always by her side, usually popping his head out from one of her many stylish purses.
Mornings are busy. Li has at least 30 friends to text or IM as soon as she wakes up. Picking out the day’s outfit and doing her makeup usually takes at least an hour. She buys a dan bing (egg pancake) from a food vendor if she’s running late, or eats breakfast at Yong He Da Wang and then catches a bus to work. The hour-long commute has become much more tolerable since she got her MP3 player. Her job at Esprit is fun. She talks to other girls about clothes and accessories all day. When work is not busy, she reads the fashion magazines on display for their customers.
She spends her evenings eating and partying with girlfriends. They’re constantly hunting for a new nightclub or bar and cute boys to accompany them. Li always has a boyfriend, sometimes more than one at a time, which would make her parents very uneasy if they knew. She is not shy about meeting boys at nightclubs. She and her friends particularly enjoy going to popular clubs, like Bar Rouge in Bund 18, to mingle and practice their English with foreign travelers.
On the rare occasion that she doesn’t make it out in the evening, Li hangs out in her room. Her small room is just enough for a loft bed and a desk underneath. She listens to music and chats with her friends on Instant Messenger. Most of them have webcams, so they will also communicate through those. They surf the Web together and share the latest celebrity news.
Weekends are for shopping. Li occasionally shops online at Joyo or bids for designer bags on Taobao, the Chinese version of eBay, but she prefers to cruise the large luxury malls with her boyfriend. She takes special note of the newest styles from Europe and South Korea. Her most recent purchase included a pair of Levi’s, a new camera phone from Nokia, and a slimming lotion her best friend claims will really work. She loves using her camera phone to take pictures of the latest styles she sees while shopping. Li prefers large luxury malls, not just to see what’s new, but also for the promotional events and product launches. She’s particularly ecstatic when she stumbles upon a promotion related to cosmetics. Yesterday she went to a Revlon event on Hua Hai Road, one of Shanghai’s famous shopping boulevards, and let their experts re-do her makeup.
Li doesn’t think much about her future beyond next week. For now, life is too exciting and full for her to waste time worrying about marriage, careers, or politics. As long as her favorite singer, Rain, produces new songs, and her soaps continue to be available on DVDs, the future can wait.
Wang Liang, The Striver
Wang Liang is a fast-talking young executive with sharp eyes and a broad smile. He could be easily mistaken for a 15 year-old, but is actually 25. He is slim and dressed casually in a rugby shirt and khaki pants that look just like the dozens of shirts and pants he has in his flat. He dresses for success when needed, but fashion doesn’t much interest Liang. What does interest him are fame, power, and money.
Liang works as an advertising salesman for one of Shanghai’s large media companies. His office is about an hour commute from his flat, but he likes his new Volkswagen Dazhong Polo, so the drive doesn’t bother him. When he’s the boss, he’ll get a car that reflects his status—something like the Audi TT Quattro or the new Mercedes that he saw at the Shanghai Auto Exhibition. But with a little luck, he believes, he won’t need to work in business at all. His real goal is to become a world-famous actor, and his current job seems a reasonable path.
At the end of each work day, Liang hurries home to his flat. The 150 square-foot studio is tiny, but it’s suitable for his current lifestyle. He feeds his cat and then spends the next few hours watching a favorite movie and practicing his acting craft by imitating the actors. Today his choice is Spider Man, but he also likes X-Men and any film starring Bruce Willis. New DVDs come out every week, and it’s easy to pick one up from the corner vendor for less than 10 yuan ($1.25 U.S.). At last count, he had over 50 DVDs.
When the movie ends, Liang spends another four to five hours on his computer. The single room that serves as his living room, bedroom, and kitchen is filled with the latest technology. To Liang, technology is as important as food, clothing, or any other basic necessity. He can’t imagine life without it. His computer has broadband access, which allows him to play online with other gamers from all over the world. His DVD player shows the latest Eminem music videos he’s downloaded, and his MP3 player easily syncs with his computer to get new music files for free.
When he’s away from home, Liang’s mobile phone takes the place of his computer, connecting him with a wide network of friends or playing the latest movie. A quick text message lets him know if his friends are available and where to meet them. They may go to a local karaoke bar after visiting a favorite restaurant. On the weekends, there’s always a new club opening or a new DJ in town. If he stays home, he can always watch sports on TV. Although it is technically illegal, he has a satellite dish, which brings him NBA games from the U.S.
Liang loves the U.S. because it’s the most powerful country in the world. He admires Bill Gates and George Bush, both of whom he sees as strong men who dominate their respective fields. One day, he will visit America. He’ll see Hollywood and New York, maybe even Las Vegas. He wonders if he could just stay there, as he’s heard others have done.
Sometime next year, Liang plans to marry his girlfriend and move to a larger flat that will accommodate a family. They toured a model unit at the Spring River Garden in Hongqiao last week and can buy a new three-bedroom apartment for about 750,000 Yuan (about $94,000 U.S.). His fiancée informed Liang that her parents will live with them, but the way Liang sees it, as long as he has his computer, his DVDs, a wide-screen TV, and his sports programs, life will be good.
Chen Hong, The Modern Conservative
Chen Hong is a reserved but articulate young woman in her last year of college. She wears her dark hair long and straight. Her elegant good looks need no makeup. She wears stylish clothing but nothing extreme. If she lived in the U.S., she’d be considered “preppy.”
When she’s not at school, Hong lives in a downtown flat she shares with three other girls. Her mother and father still live in her home town of Guilin, in northern Guangxi province. They have worked hard all their lives and have saved much of what they’ve earned, but Hong can’t get them to spend on themselves. Everything they do is for her.
Hong is an average student. She didn’t score high enough on the national college entrance exam to get into one of China’s top universities, but she’s proud of her design major and believes it sets her apart from others. She’s not sure what career to pursue, but she’s confident it should be in advertising, PR, or marketing because those professions offer challenges and excitement. She doesn’t want a job where she’s doing the same thing over and over again.
The future holds a rich and colorful life for those who are willing to work for it.
Her one-room flat barely accommodates the beds and desks she and her roommates share, but the young women don’t spend much time there. Hong rises early on weekdays and rides her bike to campus, where she spends most of her day either in class or in the library. After school, she bikes to her part-time job as a translator for a Chinese company with many American clients. She’s happy to have the job, as employment is getting more difficult for young, educated Chinese like her. Still, it’s demanding; this week she’s worked every night until at least 11 P.M.
The weekends are easier. On Saturdays, Hong usually window shops with her friends or hangs out at a teahouse or cafe. On Sundays, she always has dinner with her aunt and uncle who live in the suburbs. She has a boyfriend, but their relationship is not serious yet. Although premarital sex is allowed, the government forbids marriage for undergrads. Like her parents, she respects the advice of the government and other authorities, and she never wants to behave badly in the eyes of society. She is ashamed of the young people she sees who are loud and disruptive in public or who dress suggestively, because in her view they reflect poorly on China. Nevertheless, she cherishes her personal freedom and can’t imagine what life was like under Mao.
Hong loves and admires her parents, but she doesn’t want the life they have led. They have worked too hard and sacrificed too much. She would like to marry someday, but she does not want children. Children are a great burden in China. She can not have the rich and colorful life she dreams of having and still support a family. She and her husband will be happy working a moderate amount and spending their free time traveling around the world.
Li Hua Min, the Rule Breaker
At 20, Li Hua Min is glad to be out of school. He wasn’t interested in attending college, even if he had been accepted. His parents still support him and provide him enough spending money to hang out with his friends at the nightclubs, bars, and shopping malls in Guangzhou. Like his idol, Eminem, Hua Min has a tattoo. He has bleached and dyed his hair a bright shade of orange, and last week had his lip pierced. His parents aren’t happy about his personal style or the way he spends his time, but what can they do? He’s a proud member of China’s linglei crowd—a “hooligan.”
Hua Min’s mobile phone directory is filled with names of friends and acquaintances he’s met while tending bar in one of the city’s many bars and clubs. His job and the after-hour parties last well into the night, so Hua Min rarely wakes before noon. Self-expression through appearance is extremely important to him, so he takes his time getting ready in the morning—sculpting his hair with various products, choosing the right outfit and picking the right pair of sunglasses from the collection on his dresser.
Hua Min is on the street by 2P.M., smoking a cigarette while he text-messages friends to learn where everyone will be tonight. Later in the afternoon, he may stop by and see a friend who’s a hair stylist or another who runs an Internet café, to compare notes on the best DJs, newest drinks, or latest club openings.
As evening approaches, Hua Min usually takes a nap to recharge for the night. On his nights off, he and his friends can easily make stops at three or four different clubs. They seek out local places and avoid anything too mainstream, where the foreigners and business executives go. Sometimes they start the night playing games at an arcade. Before making their rounds at bars and clubs, they will fill up on food. Their eating preferences are simple. They will make a quick stop for a bowl of noodles or sample street food at the night market. Lately, they have been checking out some local electronic clubs. Hua Min has made a few friends there who have been supplying him with the drug Ecstasy. He and his friends know they run a risk of getting caught, but they enjoy the temporary escape.
For Hua Min, life moves fast. Friends come and go. Bars and clubs change. Styles rise and fall. The best way to show that he’s keeping up with all of this is to have the latest mobile phone. Fortunately, it’s easy to sell his old one on Taobao, China’s local version of eBay, so he’s happy to upgrade often. Right now, life is about fun and experimentation. Life would not be meaningful if it revolved around only work and making and saving money, the way his parents’ lives do. As long as he’s connected to the ever-expanding network of young, cool Chinese, the future won’t leave him behind.