What Chinese Want | Tom Doctoroff

Summary of: What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer
By: Tom Doctoroff


Delve into the heart of modern Chinese culture and consumerism with ‘What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer’ by Tom Doctoroff. This book summary unveils the three intrinsic core values that define the Chinese amidst their enthusiastic embrace of state capitalism and modernization. Discover China’s culturally unique way of doing business, its focus on stability and its unwavering devotion to family and country. As we explore the challenges faced by Chinese businesses and opportunities offered by its growing middle class, the book enlightens us on paving the path to establishing productive relationships with the Chinese people.

The Core Values of Modern China

China’s rapid transformation into a modern state doesn’t mean it’s becoming Western. While it embraces state capitalism, the country retains its distinct cultural values. The Chinese culture reveres logic, analysis, and regimentation, promoting a cyclical view of time and space. Stability and harmony are valued over individualism and rebellion, with the family still being the primary productive unit of society. These cultural standards also encourage collective efforts to accomplish national objectives. Nonetheless, to interact with the Chinese, one must understand their unique worldview, which favors slow and steady progress. Yet, these same shared values, at times, hinder innovation and self-expression. Additionally, China still has a long way to go in guaranteeing basic civil and economic rights, making it imperative for any visitor to appreciate these discrepancies.

Navigating Chinese Business Culture

In China, a patriarchal society and command-and-control management style often discourage original thinking and innovation. To succeed in business, companies should follow three rules: externalize the benefits of your products, simplify communications to enhance comprehension, and extend brands downward to generate scale, affordability, and margin. In negotiations, remember that face means everything in China, so avoid suggesting that your prospect doesn’t understand and present a logical and factual business proposition. Be prepared for ostentation, as Chinese business leaders exhibit their power with lavishly furnished private offices.

How Starbucks conquered China

Starbucks’ success in China can be attributed to their strategy of positioning themselves as upscale locations that appeal to the Chinese people’s respect for brand names as a signifier of professional advancement. The emergence of the middle class in China represents an enormous opportunity for businesses to capitalize on their motivation to climb the socioeconomic ladder. However, companies must tailor their products’ positioning to appeal to Chinese motivations, such as DeBeers marketing diamond engagement rings as symbols of commitment rather than love, which resonates more with young Chinese people. Popular products, from Wrigley’s gum to Ariel laundry detergent, advertise to ambitious office workers and appeal to their drive to succeed. The Chinese mass market for name brands has spread from coastal cities to up-and-coming inland communities. Simultaneously, China has become the second-largest consumer of luxury items, with newly minted millionaire shoppers seeking design that addresses the need to show off in an understated manner, extensive accessories, and constant innovation.

The Complex Social Dynamics of China

China’s society places great value on the family unit, with grandparents and parents nurturing their single child for academic excellence despite rising disposable incomes. The elderly will soon become the most powerful consumer group in the nation. China’s reverence for its ancient civilization does not always include veneration of the Communist Party, and the people expect accountability and transparency as they move up the economic ladder. Although the government controls all aspects of state affairs, civil society is pushing for change in areas such as corruption, cronyism, and unenforced property rights. While the Chinese government must continue to build the economy and improve the quality of life for its citizens, it also relies on the people for support. As a result, the balance between maintaining stability and order and addressing public grievances remains a complicated issue.

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