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China’s Biggest, Sustainable 2022 Consumer Trends

We look at some of the prominent consumer trends in China and spending patterns among its mid- to high-income groups and highlight sectors with potential for consumption growth. Meanwhile, Chinese brands are themselves making aggressive moves in western markets via online commerce channels and by localizing their brand identities to better reach their target audience.

In recent years there has been much discussion on an academic and public level of when the Chinese economy will overtake the United States’ and render China officially the wealthiest, and by consequence, the most powerful country in the world.

The “when” here is consciously used instead of “if”, because going by China’s economic track record in the past four decades, its surpassing the US economy is no longer considered a hypothetical scenario. Most experts find it to be inevitable sooner than later.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a level of unpredictability in this straightforward reasoning as China’s strict zero-COVID policy has put it in more of an isolated spot than ever imagined by those experts and commentators.

Let’s look at the facts. China currently has the toughest COVID-19 policy in the world, and its strict epidemic prevention measures make it nearly impossible to visit the country. In addition to this, China is also looking at a demographic crisis with more and more people marrying late or not at all and therefore delaying or not having children. Finally, current tensions with the US and western countries have normalized mentions of ‘decoupling’ in global trade and business lexicon, with consequences for the reorganization of supply chains, technology competition, etc. In fact, all of this was better said in an article by Bloomberg where it was stated that: “ debt crisis, demographic drag, and international isolation could all keep China stuck in perpetual second place”.

All of the above is very interesting, and I am sure being debated in meeting rooms, auditoriums, cafes, and even bars across the world. However, this is not an article about China’s economy. Simply put, whether China stays in second, first, or third place – it does not really matter. The reality is that the Chinese economy with all its 1.4 billion consumers is the market to watch now, and the trends and decisions made by these consumers on what, when, how, where, and why to buy will especially impact countries whose economies depend on how much the Chinese “buy from them”. Something natural when you are the world’s second biggest importer.

So, what are the biggest consumer trends for China in 2022?

China’s still growing consumer class is the engine for global growth

The growth of China’s middle class is well known; while this is slowing down – it is still relevant. In 2000, around 1.2 billion Chinese people did not have sufficient income to spend US$11 a day. That is considered the point by economists when people are members of the consuming class as they are able to afford some discretionary goods and services on top of basic necessities. By 2030, it is expected that about the same number of people will join the consuming class and climb up the income pyramid within it, as per data analyses by McKinsey & Company.


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