Consumption economyNovember 10, 2016
Thirty years ago; on my first visit to China; ‘Mao suits’ were commonplace; bicycles – a ubiquitous conveyance; denim – a rarity and a fashion statement.
In those days, the only place foreigners were permitted to shop for consumer goods were Friendship Stores, which accepted USD and gave change in FECs (foreign exchange certificates), which could be spent only in Friendship Stores!
While, for over a decade, Hong Kong had maintained the world’s highest ownership of luxury cars per head of population, in 1986, European brands were still a rarity in China.
The transition to ‘a market economy with Chinese characteristics’ has changed all that.
The massive internal migration to the cities, dramatic growth as the world’s manufacturer (iPhone packaging may say “designed in Cupertino”, but the products are assembled in China), and rapid expansion of disposable income, has revolutionised the country far more than the cadres of 1949 could have ever imagined.
Today, on Shanghai streets, there is a highly visible presence of Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati and Maybach cars.
A walk through the Sun Hung Kai Properties owned Shanghai IFC Mall; (above which I work); reveals a ‘shopping list’ of the world’s luxury brands (considerably abbreviated here):
- Ermenegildo Zegna
- IWC Shaffhausen
- Louis Vuitton
- Mont Blanc
- Salvatore Ferragamo
- Tiffany & Co.
- Vacheron Constantin
- Van Cleef & Arpels
.. and not a Mao suit to be seen.
Welcome to Communist China, comrade!
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