China’s youth eats up Western brands

I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side).

Blog 36

Due to the One Child Policy, many Chinese under 30 have no siblings. They also have six people providing for their physical and emotional needs (ie parents and two sets of grandparents, the latter usually taking a very active role in child-rearing). 

More elderly Chinese lived through the Cultural Revolution, during which society was turned upside down: peasants and manual labourers were “red” (ie “good”) and most intelligentsia, managers and others who were pointed out as bad comrades – often caught on the wrong side of local political battles – were “black” (ie bad). 

Education, promotion and other opportunities were denied to the black class and a culture of fear and mistrust has left scars on the country: these are the parents and grandparents of many of today’s young people.  

Some of the youngters may inevitably be spoilt and have a sense of “entitlement” (which their futures may not meet) and have far more money to spend than their peers in UK. 

As is well-known, China has rapidly become a major retail market. Not only are Western brands sought after here, the demand is such that retail prices (including a luxury tax) of most branded consumer goods are higher than in home markets. In the short-term, China is having a big dose of retail therapy; longer-term, there might be demand for Western style psychotherapy too!

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