20 Trends Changing China You Should Know About

Key Drivers Include Pressures on New Parents, Male Pride, Green Fashion, Art Appreciation and Virtual Commerce Says Bates 141

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Like the members of the Taiwanese boy band F4, young Chinese men are proudly showing off their bodies and exuding a sexiness formerly reserved for their female counterparts
Like the members of the Taiwanese boy band F4, young Chinese men are proudly showing off their bodies and exuding a sexiness formerly reserved for their female counterparts
HONG KONG (AdAgeChina.com) -- Bates 141, a WPP Group network in Asia, has compiled 20 key trends that are changing the way consumers in China think and spend in a tough economy.

1. From white pollution to green fashion
In China, the term white pollution is used to describe eye sores caused by plastic waste. Since Beijing's state council banned shops from offering free plastic bags as of June 1, 2008, Chinese retailers have responded with astonishing enthusiasm. Many have taken the opportunity to turn fashion-oriented customers into eco-aware customers. Consumers of all ages proudly carry eco-bags, to make both a fashion and social statement.

2. From global exports to domestic demand
For 30 years, the Chinese economic miracle has been driven by demand for products large and small in other parts of the world, particularly the U.S. With the world spinning into an economic crisis, China has announced a series of measures to spur domestic demand. Apart from a $586-billion stimulus package, the government will use other measures like further interest rate cuts to maintain liquidity.

3. From Ms. China to Mr. China
Give the credit (or the blame) to F4. The Taiwanese boy band started a beautiful boy wave in China that turned into a nationwide phenomenon with hit TV shows such as "My Hero" and "Happy Boy." Young men across China, straight and gay, are proudly showing off their bodies and exuding a sexiness formerly reserved for their female counterparts. This trend has also opened a whole new avenue to attaining fame and fortune in China.

4. From gas-fueled to battery-powered
The Chinese car firm Build Your Dreams Auto (BYD) hopes to launch hybrid-electric cars this year in China, followed by Europe in 2010 and eventually the U.S. The company says the first two cars destined for the U.S. are the F3DM and the F6DM models, both featuring plug-in recharging. It is also developing a fully electric car, the F6e. Skeptical? Consider this: Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet, the so-called oracle of Omaha, has bought a 10% stake in BYD for $230 million.

5. From counting yuan to making every yuan count
After living it up for years, Chinese twenty-somethings are facing a new reality of dwindling growth and decreasing job security. They still feel confident and believe the downturn could pass within 18 months. In the meantime, they are optimizing their budgets by seeking out value-added products and services.
He'll have to take care of four retirees one day along with his own child
He'll have to take care of four retirees one day along with his own child

6. From passive acceptance to e-ccountability
Electronic word-of-mouth is regarded as adding accountability. There's a growing belief in China that online voices can change what's happening in the world offline. Chinese consumers no longer passively accept news and product information thrown at them by marketers, ads, governments or their fellow citizens. The new buzz word is accountability.

7. From heritage to modern symbols
There's an old Chinese saying, "Those who don't reach the Great Wall are not real men." For hundreds of years, Chinese have traveled to their nation's capital to visit that national treasure as well the Forbidden City. But new interests are changing travel trends. Now, Chinese are proudly flocking to Beijing to see modern symbols of 21st century China, such as the National Stadium built for the 2008 Olympic Games, dubbed the Bird's Nest, and the Grand National Theater of China.

8. From electric plant to fashion house
Fashion 8, a creative district in Beijing fashioned out of an abandoned 1970s electricity plant, has attracted nearly 100 well-known designers. Like the better-known 798 Art Zone, a thriving artist community that took over disused military factory buildings, Fashion 8 is part of a national drive to develop China's creative industries, often by taking advantage of unused spaces in large cities. Every year in Beijing alone, the city government reportedly invests 500 million RMB ($73 million) to support the arts. Events like the Arts Forum Beijing 2008ll have bolstered China's position in the world of art, and raised the profiles of Chinese artists like Huang Rui, Zhao Bandi and Zhang Zhaohui.

9. From TOEFL to TOMFL
With China's rapid economic development, Mandarin is the hot new foreign language at schools and universities around the world. Over 30 million non-ethnic Chinese are studying the language. The Confucius Institute, a non-profit public institute that promotes Chinese language and culture, has branches in 77 countries, and 46 countries now have TOMFL (Test of Mandarin as Foreign Language) sites.

10. From labor intensive to intelligence intensive
China's manufacturing base used to rely on low prices to win contracts. Now factory owners are upgrading plants and teaching new skills to workers to move up the value chain. Local telecom equipment-maker Huawei, for instance, has successfully gone from "labor-intensive" to "intelligence-intensive." Nearly half of Huawei's 60,000 employees and 10% of annual revenue are invested in R&D.

11. From cultural revolution to cultural reconnection
Last year, China began to shorten the traditional week-long "May Day" holiday and redistribute some of those vacation days into short breaks built around traditional Chinese festivities like tomb-sweeping day, dragon boat competitions and the mid-autumn festival. The government wants to build tourism infrastructure, revive traditional culture among young Chinese, and gain the goodwill of older generations.

12. From lean to fat
Waistlines in China have grown as quickly as living standards improved over the past 30 years. Up to 325 million Chinese--nearly 25% of the population--are now considered overweight. At the current rate, that figure will double in 20 years, negatively impacting China's future labor market, economic growth and the health care system.

13. From urban revolution to rural renewal
China's central government has unleashed a record increase in spending on rural development this year, up 30% from last year to $79 billion. In the past few years, the government focused on modernizing big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Now, as part of a "harmonious society policy," the focus has turned to rural areas. With millions of unemployed migrant workers returning home, the government is eager to pacify its poorer, rural citizens.

14. From little emperors to big givers
Older generations of Chinese regard those born into single-child families in the 1980s as self-centered, dependent and superficial. They were known as little emperors in childhood, because parents and grandparents doted on them. But a change is taking place among this group. Influenced by factors such as the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in 2008, environmentalism and the economic slowdown, they are taking a more serious look at themselves. Many are giving more time to their family, to the needy and to society, particularly environmental causes.

15. From e-commerce to g-commerce
Less than two years after strictly forbidding players of online computer games from making money by trading in virtual currencies, China has announced a 20% tax on such income. Trade in virtual items--ranging from gold coins to magic swords and in-game property rights--is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion annually in China, according to iResearch.

16. From stock market to art market
China has 70 million art collectors, a figure growing by 10 to 20% annually. Art sales at auctions between 2001 and 2005 totalled 22.96 billion RMB ($3.6 billion) in five years. In 2007 alone, however, art auctions brought in 22.1 billion RMB ($3.2 billion). That explosive growth is attributed to people buying art as an investment. If Chinese stocks continue to plunge, more people are expected to switch their investment strategies to alternatives such as art.

17. From 1-2-4 to 4-2-1
The first generation of single-child households has started having families of their own. That creates the 4-2-1 problem--one person looking after four retirees and a child. Just 25 years ago, China was concerned it had too many children to support. Today, the country faces the opposite problem. The success of the one-child policy has produced too few children to support a rapidly aging population. The government estimates that by 2030, 400 million people will be over 60. With the disintegration of the extended family structure, the family's role in providing for pensioners will be gradually transferred to society.

18. From creative oblivion to creative renaissance
Once considered old, traditional and out of date, Chinese brands such as Feiyue, which makes sports shoes, and the Meihua clothing brand are making a comeback after a creative transformation.

19. From celebrity endorsement to health department endorsement
A series of tainted food scandals in 2008 has left consumers nervous about what they eat. Bright packaging, marketers' promises and celebrity endorsements don't calm consumers' fears. According to research conducted by the Chinese commerce department, 52.4% of Chinese say they now specifically look for safer food; 47.9% check for proof of inspection; and 22.3% would like to choose organic foods.

20. From paper scrolls to e-novels
After blogs and bands, creative writing is the latest trend booming on the internet. Qidian.com, a web site that fosters original composition, is home to 150,000 budding internet writers and 180,000 digital novels. The number of registered users grew from six million in 2006 to 20 million last year.

Interest in Chinese culture is surging as a new generation explore their roots
Interest in Chinese culture is surging as a new generation explore their roots
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