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Customer Review

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Credible -, June 18, 2012
This review is from: What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer (Hardcover)
Author Doctoroff has lived his last 14 years working in China as leader of a large advertising agency - that certainly gives him lots of credibility. The book's Introduction was also interesting - telling us that some 800,000 Chinese live in Africa, mostly working on various development projects. Another point - The Hunan China Rich List, with 270 billionaires in China and an estimate that this is only half the number qualifying!

Values: The Chinese see the only absolute evil as chaos and the only good as stability - a platform on which progress is constructed. Family, not the individual, is the basic productive unit of society. China has an anti-individualistic social cohesion liked to the nation and clan. The nation also features top-down patriarchal management - eg a peasant father retains authority over his billionaire son. CEOs bow to Party leaders. The nation also features diplomatic pragmatism coupled with a long-term perspective.

Chinese consumers are now the most avid buyers of luxury products in the world. It has over 800 million mobile phone subscribers, and 250 million 'Twitter-like' followers. Divorce rates were almost nonexistent 20 years ago, and now exceed 40% in first-tier cities.

The nation's legal framework is built on the threat of punishment, not protection of rights.

China's government has identified and pledged funding to several strategic industries in which it plans to become a world leader - IT, energy-saving and environmental protections, bio-science, high-end equipment manufacturing. The Party believes China can maintain its lower cost labor pool for the next 20 years at least, especially in inland locations. That statement is given credibility by Bloomberg News reporting in early 2012 that China still has 657 million living in its rural areas, only slightly less than those in urban areas. Income for city dwellers is more than triple that of rural residents, given those rural residents plenty of incentive to become employed in new factories.

Sectors with overcapacity, such as autos, will be restructured over the next few years. Corruption is endemic within the procurement function. Consumers see safety as a key product attribute - from cars to baby formula. Chinese brands compete on value, not through brands. Brands publicly consumed (eg. cell phones) command much higher premiums than those used in private or at home. Externalized benefits (eg. beauty products that supposedly help open doors, are most valued.

The average Shanghai resident is exposed to 3X as many ads as one in the U.K. - thus, advertising messages must be simple. Most celebrities should be Chinese - the populace is not familiar with most Caucasian stars. The Chinese are very price conscious. Government is trust more (79%) than business (54%). Bookstores overflow with best-sellers that 'reveal the secrets of the Jews.' (The author is Jewish) Integrity is not to be counted on.

China's education system emphasizes rote memorization. Most elementary pupils work with outside tutors to improve. Per the China Teen Research Center, 75% of children 13-15 spend over 8 hours studying each weekend, and two-thirds take courses during summer and winter holidays. Havle of mothers 'care about nothing but their child's studies.' Chinese mothers are drawn to products promising learning masked as fun - eg. McDonald's website offers Happy Courses for multiplication.

Every housing complex pays 1-2 residents to snoop on neighbors and report suspicious activities to authorities. They also handle complaints about uncivil behavior, overflowing trash, construction dust, etc. Mao is still idolized (70% good, 30% bad) for liberating China from foreign invasions and unifying the nation. Deng imposed a scientific economic model, and average per-capita income has increased 6X from 1978 - 2008. The number living on less than $1.50/day has fallen from 260 million to 16 million. Finally, Doctoroff does not see the Chinese people taking action against their government - economic progress has been quite good, and their values auger against doing so. He also doesn't see China being interested in expanding its territory beyond historic past borders.

Excellent overview.
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