Chinese Buying Luxury Goods
Chinese Buying Luxury Goods . What drives Chinese into Buying Luxury Goods in the 21 century?
Although China’s appetite for luxury brands is well documented, misconceptions and stereotypes involving the Chinese consumer are still being widely disseminated. Every so often, young Chinese shoppers are presented as “label-obsessed” buyers who are addicted to luxury shopping, but the reality is far more complex.
While Western-style consumerism interprets luxury consumption as a “way of life” in China, the love of luxury has a Confucian essence. According to Pierre Xiao Lu, the civil servants in ancient China had an appetite for the finer things: enjoying cultural activities and elevated hobbies that exalted their artisanal skills. Craftsmanship and artistry were widely associated with the upper class.
During the following centuries, China experienced various political and socio-economic changes via imperial dynasties, destructive wars, and eventually, Mao’s Communism. These periods left marks not only on the country but also on the consumer. The aspirations and necessities of one generation were not identical to the following one, but what remained within all ideas about luxury consumption was what we find in Confucianism.
The Confucian doctrine emphasis six virtues — xi (the virtue of learning and assimilating ethics), zhi (the virtue of character and knowledge), li (the virtue of community, fairness and politeness), yi (the virtue of morality and righteousness), wen (the virtue of self- development), and ren (the highest virtue and the equivalent of benevolence and charity). As mentioned, these values dictate not only personal interactions but also consumer behavior.
Tom Doctoroff, Chief Cultural Insight Officer at the brand and marketing consultancy Prophet, told eMarketer that “Confucian culture is a combination of rules and regimentation, and [the idea] that the individual does not exist independent of his obligations and responsibilities to others. Therefore, there is a need to obey certain standards; in this case, a demonstration of success.” Doctoroff goes on to say that under this doctrine “not by rebelling but by mastering the rules, you are able to climb up the hierarchy.”
Evidently, culture plays a significant role when analyzing China’s appetite for luxury. While Western societies are largely individualistic, usually emphasizing the need for distinctiveness, China is ruled by collectivism. As a result, it has become a society where individuals respect social norms and aspire to achieve conformity while being assimilated into strong, cohesive social groups. Therefore, in China, luxury goods are more than the peripheral status symbols they are in the West; they’ve become badges of success. For affluent buyers, the fastest and easiest way to convey their role as a winner in society is through luxury consumption.