Globalization adds variety to dinner table
Spring Festival is no longer only about the world’s largest annual human migration, comprising 3 billion trips this year, it is also about Alaskan king crabs and coalfish, Bostonian lobsters, Norwegian salmon, Chilean cherries and Parma ham from Italy making their way to the dinner tables in China.
This massive flow of people and food serves a common purpose: to celebrate the Lunar New Year, China’s most important festival, which falls on Jan 25 this year. As consumption upgrading gains momentum in China, more seafood, fruits and other specialties from all over the world are being shipped across oceans and continents to the country to add to the increasing variety on the dinner tables of Chinese people during the holiday season.
Drastic increase in food imports
According to the latest data from JD Daojia, the on-demand retail platform of Dada Group, consumers spent 2.3 times more on imported foods during the first round of Spring Festival shopping from Dec 28 to Jan 5 compared with the same period last season.
In fact, China became the world’s largest buyer of imported foods in 2017, when the total cost of importing foods from more than 170 countries and regions exceeded $60 billion, according to official data. The figure can only be higher this year, as imported food items are no longer the exclusive preserve of residents in first-and second-tier cities. With the rise in the disposable income of people in the third-to fifth-tier cities, Belgian beer, Thai rice and New Zealand milk and milk products have all become part of a long list of affordable options for consumers in lower-tier cities.
Yet as Chinese consumers line up to buy Canada Goose and Moose Knuckles this winter, shoppers in New York City’s Upper East Side are trying on Chinese down jacket brand Orolay. And as Chinese children immerse themselves in Lego bricks and cosplaying Elsa, a cartoon character in Disney’s animated blockbuster Frozen, foreign kids are playing Chinese-made ukulele and wearing Chinese sports brand Li-Ning products. Which shows globalization is being powered by the growing demand of people across the world for quality clothing, food and other commodities, reflecting their desire for a better life.
New business models emerging in China
Online influencer economy, pet economy, silver hair economy and mother-child economy are some of the business models thriving in China. Even foreign experts and companies have been lured by the Chinese market to become key opinion leaders and content creators for social networking and e-commerce platforms. And, by helping meet Chinese consumers’ demands, they are pocketing handsome profits.
To gauge the robustness of consumption in China, just take a look at the daily sales numbers of luxury stores in the country. For example, in November, Beijing’s landmark shopping mall SKP recorded more than 1 billion yuan ($145.3 million) in sales on the day it offered its anniversary discount.
Besides, a few days ago, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc, unveiled his plan to make Tesla’s second electric car Model Y in China after the US company had just delivered its first batch of 10 Chinese-made Model 3 sedans to customers at its Shanghai plant. Tesla will also establish a China design center, Musk said, to design car models for the world. That the CEO of a top global company is looking to China to boost his business shows the huge opportunities the Chinese market offers.
Consumption to account for 60 percent of growth
China’s per capita GDP exceeded $10,000 in 2019, according to official statistics. China is set to become the world’s largest consumer market this year, as total retail sales of consumer goods in 2019 is expected to reach 41.1 trillion yuan, up 8 percent year-on-year, and the contribution of consumption to economic growth could exceed 60 percent.
As Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce, said, China’s consumer market still has huge potential. Apart from its large market size, China also offers a sound base for foreign investment due to its comprehensive industrial chain.
Plus, China is promoting innovation on a large scale, with the internet combined with information technology, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies set to unleash more potential.
Besides, China’s digital economy has expanded at a frenetic pace, with the country substituting the waning demographic dividend with growing digital dividend, said Chen Yubo, Party chief of the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University and director of the Center for Internet Development and Governance of the school.
Foreign firms gaining larger share of market
Multinational companies are reaping high profits and getting a larger share of China’s growing market thanks to the Chinese consumers’ increasing purchasing power. For example, the revenue share of Apple, Intel, GM and Qualcomm in the Chinese market accounted for 19, 24, 42 and 65 percent respectively in 2017, according to Ministry of Commerce data.
And according to Xu Gao, chief economist with Bank of China International Ltd, further intensification of income distribution reform would lead to rising individual income and consumption upgrading.
The journey from Canton Fair to China International Import Expo reflects the transition of the Chinese economy from the «world’s factory» to high-end products’ manufacturer, and from quantitative economic growth to innovation-driven high-quality development.
Chinese consumers’ growing purchasing power shows China is no longer just a manufacturing powerhouse, it is also a huge global market. It also reflects the results of China’s broader economic restructuring push. Without going abroad, Chinese people can now enjoy Japanese Wagyu beef, French wines and Spanish ham, as well as avail of the services offered by leading global companies.
Which is in line with what President Xi Jinping said: Only when the world is good, China is good. Only when China is good can the world get better.
The authors are writers with China Daily.