In this week’s newsletter, we talk about CCTV's Spring Festival Gala that got a lot of international attention and social trends. What do reports say of health issues in China? How to reach young Chinese people? Who spends more time on their phones - Mainland Chinese or Taiwanese? Read more below.
Ps. Did you know universities are “dinosaurs of marketing”? ;-) Check the latest post on our blog, Tait talked with 5 experts about the biggest problems faced by foreign higher education institutions while recruiting Chinese students. What are the common pitfalls? What can be improved? Check it here.
And talking about pitfalls… Do you know what mistakes Western marketers make when they try to enter China’s market? Or when you could safely cut your China marketing budget? Tait knows! And he shared his 10+ years experience in China Digital Marketing on Angrymoo.com.
China’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala is the most watched program on Earth - it has much more viewers than Super Bowl. Apart from Chinese TV, it is also streamed on Youtube to let the whole world “share China’s happiness”. This year’s gala certainly got a lot of attention, unfortunately not because of the joyous atmosphere. One of the skits, which was intended to celebrate the launch of Kenya’s first fast train, got accused of racism. It involved a Chinese actress, who played an African woman, painted black with gigantic fake buttocks.
It caused a huge uproar in Western media and was widely commented worldwide. But Chinese people don’t seem to hold this view. One user on Weibo said: “We don’t see racism there because we are not racist. And there was no intention of racism. China has always maintained good relationships with African countries, we always help them.”
Anyway, this has taught us a lesson regarding cultural differences. We need to be aware of that while doing marketing - one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
I do agree with the Weibo user - it probably never crossed anyone’s mind that the skit could be labelled as racist. The creators are certainly guilty of having a terrible sense of humour though - the audience was clearly far from being amused. But as Wenhui mentioned, the main problem here is the culture difference. Even Black Lives China mentioned, “there were members of the black community who find that skit harmless, entertaining or largely irrelevant”. But they also say “Africa is too large, complex and diverse for any singular narrative” - the skit refers to the most basic stereotypes and put all of the African countries into one basket. Not to mention the fact that the African mother in the skit is just a typical Chinese mother painted black.
I don’t like being oversensitive and I’d say the creators of the skit showed extreme ignorance rather than racism. But the truth is that just a few weeks ago Chinese netizens went nuts over a song from a Parisian kindergarten about a Chinese boy who wears flip-flops, eats lychees and rice, and has “teeny-tiny eyes”. Sounds a lot like double-standards, right? Well, watch it on Youtube (or Youku) and judge it yourself.
Chinese Rely On Mobile Phones
94% of people aged 18-34 choose mobiles over computers to access the Internet, according to Pew Research. So, when we talk about China, we should not only mention the cashless society, but also m-commerce retail. Chinese people rely on their mobiles through the whole shopping journey - starting with research and finishing on a purchase. It’s all done through mobile apps, and now even specifically social media apps, like WeChat. Especially young people expect convenience, they want to get from seeing a product to buying it with one click. It’s getting much easier considering two giants, Alibaba and Tencent, don’t grudge their money on discovering new ways to the New Retail, a fusion of online and offline world. - Read more (English)
Mainland Chinese rely more on e-commerce platforms than Taiwanese or people living in Hong Kong, according to a survey by Lightspeed Research. They are also much more digitized when it comes to giving New Year’s red envelopes. 80% of surveyed Mainland Chinese said they’d send the red envelopes via WeChat. According to the latest reports, this year 688 million people used WeChat to send at least one, only on Feb 15. - Read more (English)
The People’s Bank of China sets limits on their clients’ monthly mobile payments. The transaction will be limited to 500, 1,000 or 5,000 RMB. The bank also cracks down on the reserves of mobile payment funds that it puts in escrow from 20% to 50%. The aim is to intensify the control over Tencent and Ant Financial fund flow. - Read more (English)
Just in time, as domestic mobile payments noted a major rise in cross-border transactions during this year's Chinese New Year. Alibaba and Tencent won’t stop their efforts to push the mobile wallets abroad (read more).
People of China
Chinese New Year is a tough time for young people in China. As it’s often the only time in during a year when they see most of their relatives at once, they’re bombarded with questions about marriage prospects or salary. This year there was even a mini-game called “Spring Festival Survival Battle”. It simulates a family meeting during which you gotta answer questions from nosy “third sister-in-law” to “elder paternal uncle”. - Read more (English)
You don’t really need to search too far to hear these stories - one of our own team members admitted she was not going home this year to avoid the interrogation. It’s particularly difficult for women, as they get a ‘leftover’ label instantly if they’re not married by the time they reach their late 20s. It’ll still take some time for Chinese society to cope with the idea of strong and independent women. Better sooner than later as those ‘leftover women’ play an important role in China’s economy. - Read more (English)
“Please, come back, outlanders!” - first-tier cities in China seem to shout. The holiday is coming to an end, and residents of China’s biggest cities are looking forward to going back to the regular routine. The service industry, including food and post delivery, relies highly on workers from smaller cities and towns. So as most of them travelled back home for Chinese New Year the industry faced a shortage of people to work. Most of the kuaidi (express deliveries) companies stopped their service as early as the beginning of February, and food delivery service was much more expensive during the holiday.
“We have criticised ‘outlanders’ for using our health, medicine and education resources, but never realized how essential is the role they play in our daily lives” - people commented on Weibo. Since labour shortage is becoming a serious problem throughout China, it is a high time to reconsider resource allocation between locals and outlanders. - Read more (Chinese)
What Is Trending
A video is the most catching content on China’s Internet. No matter if it comes from Meipai or Douyin - those short, usually 15-sec threads have taken China’s Internet by storm. They spread fast - even my Facebook wall is flooded with content produced by those Chinese video platforms. Also, thanks to their virality, they help people become online celebrities fast, even if it’s just for a few days. They are also commonly used by KOLs as a way of communicating with their fans. Those short videos are exactly what KOLs are - authentic.
Chinese online influencers are closer to people than regular celebrities and they do not stick to any patterns. They are creative, they know how to influence people and how to collect feedback - that is why it’s worth considering working with them when you build your brand’s identity in China. - Read more (English)
It’s no secret that language-barrier is one of the biggest problems foreigners have to face in China, no matter if you are a tourist or a businessman. Hence Chinese people’s urge to study English. According to reports, they spend over 30 billion yuan ($4.37 billion) on English-learning resources every year. - Read more (English)
English-learners in China care more about the quality as well. Before it didn’t really matter what nationality you were, white face equalled language proficiency. Right now, both schools and parents stress the importance of ‘native accent’ - preferably American or British. As the fees are much higher if a native speaker is involved, many students turn to tv shows, podcasts or online platforms which allow them to learn a real language.
‘Hair loss’ and ‘insomnia’ are the two issues that concerned Chinese people most in 2017, according to the latest Alibaba Health report. Over half of the surveyed are under 30 years old. The most popular keyword was ‘supplements’. Apparently, honey, Chinese wolfberries, donkey-hide gelatin and edible bird's nest became a must-have at white-collars’ desks. In the beauty industry, the top three purchases are: hyaluronic acid, face-lift and whitening (of skin, not teeth!) - Read more (Chinese)
Chinese New Year is obviously all about family reunions, so was the annual CCTV Gala. One of the sketches depicted a Taiwanese couple “coming home” to Mainland China. I’m not sure if it was just a regular propaganda or was there a hidden message?
And also, if we talk about the family bonds, Xi Jinping became a spokesperson for a “Hold Your Mum’s Hand” campaign that just hit 500 million views on Weibo. One reason is that Chinese society faces a huge aging problem - as the expected baby-boom didn’t happen. With no strong social help system, elderly people can only count on their own children. And the second reason is Xi poses as a father of the nation - he even got a “Daddy Xi” nickname on the Internet. - Read more (English)