For those of you who have yet to visit China, trust us, it’s a big deal – and we’re talking size, scale, population and scope. But even if you’ve only glimpsed this fascinating, ever-changing nation through the lens of the TV camera or the comfort of your sofa, your interest cannot fail to have been piqued.
China’s 1 billion people – around 1 in 5 on the planet – are slowly but surely beginning to resemble our own in moving from an industrial to a consumer-based economy. The much-reported slowdown is more accurately a sharp reduction in economic growth – from a whopping 15% to very respectable 7%. And, according to The Economist, many Chinese cities (which most of us have never heard of) will shine brightly this year, with growth of up to 12%.
As Indonesia takes over as the manufacturing centre of our planet, the rise of China’s 300 million+ urban middle class is an ascendancy to behold. Brands ranging from Paul Smith and Burberry, to Starbucks and KFC loom large as Western culture slipstreams into the country on the back of politically-driven economic change. Upmarket Chinese fashion brands now primarily display logos written in Western script, and local editions of upmarket, glossy publications feature more and more Western fashion models. Some US movies now gross more in China than they do in North America, and the nation is fast learning to speak English – it’s been taught in every school since the year 2000.
Two members of the Genuine team recently visited Beijing, Shanghai and Heifei (population, 9m) – one of China’s so-called ‘2nd cities’, many of which dwarf their ‘grander’ counterparts, and leave European capitals such as London (population, 8m) looking miniscule by comparison. In the city of Heifei, a few hours’ drive west from Shanghai, we experienced a sold-out 26,000 capacity show by one of the biggest names in Chinese pop, Phoenix Legend. After the show, at a nearby glitzy hotel, we saw many young, Chinese professionals clutching their iPhone 6+s in one hand and a Starbucks coffee in the other.
China’s relatively nascent live music industry is now a $620 million business, with audiences of 13.7 million. Judging from the uptake of Western fashion and film in China, it’s only logical that that figure will grow and grow…