The Modern Middle Class is the future of China. This is the generation born after the ‘80’s of the previous century. They are often referred to as White Collar Workers because this is the first generation that has benefited from the boost of higher education that Jiang Zemin announced in 1998. Chinese universities and colleges produced 830,000 graduates a year in 1998. Last May, that number was more than six million and rising. They are the catalyst for the next wave of chance that China will go through; they will enable China to move from being the factory of the world to being a place where brainpower brings forth intellectual superiority and innovation.
The upwards mobility of the Modern Middle Class was provided by their parents hard work and investments. They are enjoying unprecedented prosperity and liberty. Similarly to how it happened in the Western World, where urbanization and modernization lead to independence and freedom, this new generation of Chinese is starting to discover that they can determine the path of their own life. They are starting to live more independently of their family and parents, less reliant on stability they job-hob, they might take a gap-year, a sabbatical before building their career, go live with their friends instead of family and marry somebody they love.
It’s clear that working in the office demands a different mind- and skill-set, the TV-show GoLalaGo is providing the new generation of office-workers with clues on how to behave and dress in the office to have success. At the same time there is an awakening conscience that a work-place with more emphasis on health is better; wearing flat shoes, go home in time, wearing glasses instead of lenses and drinking various kinds of tea throughout the day to balance energies and counter the radiation from the computer.
So ironically the Chinese Modern Middle Class is turning to tradition to live a modern life. Traditional Chinese Medicine is immensely popular with this generation it has proven itself over centuries, in their eyes the Western medicine has often enough proven itself to fail. Also a number of other Chinese traditional activities such as martial arts, meditation, Han Costumes and calligraphy are gaining popularity.
When it comes to personal care and beauty this development can clearly be tracked, the modern Chinese consumer easily uses foreign brands in combination with classical Chinese skincare products. On one hand, it is for nostalgia, on the other hand, more and more young people pay attention to quality, brand and their consumption is more rational.
Western brands have done well so far in China as they are aspirational, they represent progress. But what to do when the Chinese return to their own traditional values? What can Western brands do to stay in the game? How can Western brands remain relevant in terms of promise?
Published in edited form in Philips Design New Value News March 2011