The first day in Beijing for the Center for Brand & Product Management and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research did not disappoint. We visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China and we soaked in all there was to learn. But while there were a number of stats, facts and stories we absorbed over course of the day, three themes emerged that will provide a sound foundation for understanding the mindset of businesses and people in China. They are as follows.
The desire for order & stability: Made clear to us from the very beginning of the trip, the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seek to maintain structure and order in the everyday lives of its citizens. As evident by our lack of discussion of the 1989 protest events while at the very location they took place, negative discussion of the party and what it may have incited in the past is not only unwelcome but often punished. The Chinese population seemingly benefits from this stable way of life and it is the government’s priority to maintain it.
The importance of Feng Shui and the flow of Chi: Chi refers to Feng Shui energy, or energy that surrounds an individual, their family and home. A regular topic of conversation in our visit to the Forbidden City, the Chinese ensure the Chi in their homes is balanced and manifests in five key elements including fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Numerology also plays a significant role in the lives of Chinese (for example, 8 is particularly important as the Chinese word for it sounds like “prosperous growth”) and we saw many examples in the ornate architecture of the palace.
The cultural juxtaposition of old & new: After opening to foreign investment 40 years ago, China has seen transformative growth. The most obvious example is construction and architecture, as you can be standing and enjoying the Temple of Heaven and see skyscrapers not a far distance away. Beyond the obvious to the eye though, there are also seemingly distinct differences between the way old and new generations think of social, political or economic decisions and this can have a drastic effect on a company attempting to appeal to more than one generation in the 1.3 B population.