Monday, December 14, 2015

Dear China

Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.
                                              - Mahatma Gandhi (1896)

The universe has a funny way of toying with me sometimes.

A few days ago I had a conversation with someone about authenticity of “green” marketing. You can read my post here. Today, I had lunch with some friends and had an interesting discussion about China's travel obsession for buying luxury goods abroad. Some fantastic stories were told, most of them true I am sure. They all involve Chinese tourists coming to America clearing out some luxury brand store, or electronic “brick-and-mortar” such as Best Buy of their latest iPads.

From what I'm hearing, the Chinese these days are all about touring and visiting not for culture's sake. Instead, their travels are more about buying the latest or the greatest of brands for the cheaper prices. (China puts a heavy tax on luxury goods to curb its corruptions.) This trend, I'm guessing, is all about China's struggle for its value and identity in the post-Mao consumer world. As my generation (30-40 year-olds) of Chinese were raised in the money-for-money's-sake era, the youth today is attempting at a existential emergence with the money they inherited.

I left lunch in disrepair. Is there really no hope for China's future besides consumption?

I went to the inter-web to find solace. This Huffington Post article brought some sense of relief:

"Brands take heed: in order to win over Chinese youth, you must stand for something. Youth crave values, and fancy brand names don't stand for much but exclusivity, elitism, and in the worst case, corruption. In their time of need and self-exploration, how will you guide them?"

But the question remains: what must a brand stand for to guide the China's tomorrow?

On the one hand, China represents the largest consumption market and companies stand to make a lot of money from its future. On the other hand, China represents a great will power that can transform how goods are sold and how businesses are done to promote our global sustainability goals in the future. While the China youth today is half trapped by the money-for-money's-sake mentality, and slowly finding their identity in the “small luxuries” of indulgences in things crafty and sentimental, western brands holds immense power over the future fate of our common human experience.

What a challenge indeed. How would China recognize and be guided by the authentic brands? 

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