The 1990 Institute: China’s Growing Global Impact

I was honored to speak at The 1990 Institute’s Teachers Workshop on Monday in San Mateo, California. The two-day workshop, titled China’s Growing Global Impact, was designed to help high school teachers understand what’s happening in China and prepare our students for a future that will be very different from their parents’.

My presentation, of course, is on the subject of the rise of China’s middle class. Here are the slides I presented at the workshop:

The 1990 Institute is an organization that fosters better understanding between the U.S. and China. Other people on the panel include Dr. Tom Gold, professor of sociology of UK Berkeley, Dr. Mark Henderson, program head of Environmental Studies at Mills College, and John Kamm from Dui Hua Foundation. It was a real honor to be in such a distinguished company.

My Interview on CNNMoney

This week, CNNMoney is running a series of articles about China. I was interviewed on the topic of China's growing middle class. It is a good thing that mainstream media has started to pay more attention to China.

Among the series, an article "US Companies Betting Big in China" showcased some of the most successful US companies in China:
  • Apple's sales in China reached $12 billion in 2011
  • KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco bell opened 656 new restaurants in China last year alone
  • Boeing predicts China's aircraft market will generate $200 billion revenue
While multinationals have made significant inroads to China, small and medium sized companies face entry barriers due to lack of resources. To address this problem, I will launch seminars later this year to help small and medium sized companies to take advantage of China's growing market. Stay tune!
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China to Become the World’s Largest Importer by 2014

According to The Economist, China will surpass the United States to become the largest importer in the world by 2014. There are plenty of opportunities for companies to take advantage of China’s growing middle class. Here are a few useful tips if you are interested in exporting to China:

  • Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or Export Assistance Center and familiarize yourselves with legal and regulatory issues in China. These facilities also have a lot of resources and services that can help you develop China market entry strategies and find the right business partners.
  • Consider rebranding or repositioning your products in China. Remember, what works in your native country may not work in China. You really need to learn about Chinese culture, understand Chinese consumers, and adapt your products and services to the China market.
  • For smaller brands, e-commerce is a great way to break into the China market without significant upfront cost. China’s ecommerce has been growing at 60 percent each year in recent years. More than 100 million Chinese shopped online last year. And China’s Internet users are expected to reach 750 million in 2015.
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The Biggest Story of Our Time: The Rise of China’s Middle Class

I will be speaking at San Jose State University on November 8th, 2011. The topic of my presentation is “The Biggest Story of Our Time: The Rise of China’s Middle Class.” I will give an overview of the demographics of the emerging Chinese middle class and discuss what the rise of China’s middle class mean for entrepreneurs.

The event is hosted by International Business Association, a student-run organization. Please see the event details below:

When: Nov. 8, 2011, 6:00 pm

Where: Science Building 164 (SCI 164), San José State University, San José, CA 95192

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A Retail Success Story in China

Ground Floor Capital, a private equity firm, quoted me in its newsletter about China’s booming consumer market in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities. Below are excerpts from the newsletter:

KBS (Keep Best State) designs, produces and sells its own brand of apparel, principally targeting China’s middle class 20 to 40 year-olds.

The company is aiming at creating China’s leading fashion sportswear brand. It currently operates 145 stores, the majority of which are located in China’s 2nd and 3rd tier cities. 83 of the 101 new stores planned for 2011 will be franchises.

They are targeting at smaller cities, which are where the growth potential lies:

Contrary to conventional strategies that encourage retailers to target the largest markets, KBS has developed a strategy that targets 2nd and 3rd tier cities. These cities have very recently become the backbone of the Chinese growth story.

This is the exact market segment that KBS is targeting. Seventy percent of KBS’s revenue comes directly from these cities. 2nd and 3rd tier cities have smaller populations but, due to the growth in their respective middle class populations, they have become an attractive entry point for companies to build substantial market share. The growth in these cities can be attributed to the lower cost of living than that of the 1st tier cities.

And the newsletter quoted me as follows:

Helen Wang, a Forbes contributor and expert on China’s middle class, says: “middle class people have available one-third of their income for discretionary spending.” Helen defines China’s middle class as “urban professionals in foreign companies, private businesses, or state enterprises, government officials, and entrepreneurs, who have college degrees and earn an annual income from $10,000 to $60,000. Over three hundred million people, or about 25 percent of China’s population, met these criteria in 2010”.

I am glad to see someone benefited from my work.

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China Consumer Insight with iTV-Asia

I was very honored to share the stage with Tom Doctorroff, Asia-Pacific CEO of JWT Advertising, at iTV-Asia’s China Consumer Insight event in Shanghai.

As the Chinese middle class grows, China’s consumption market is expected to reach $16 trillion by 2020, according to a Credit Suisse report. Who are these new consumers? What are their characteristics? How can multinationals reach them? These were the subject of our panel discussion.

Below are the highlights:

  • Chinese consumers are fundamentally Chinese. Certain characteristics stay true despite recent dramatic changes. For example, Chinese culture is collective-oriented. People tend to measure their worth according what society expects of them, rather than what they want for themselves. Chinese consumers are more willing to buy products that enhance their social status. Western companies can charge premier prices for such products.
  • Young people are becoming more individualistic, and they want to express themselves. However, once they get married, they are more likely to follow the conventional collectivist mindset. Marketers need to understand this and craft their messages to reach different age groups.
  • Although there is a lot of optimism, many people are living under extreme anxiety. Part of the reason for anxiety is peer pressure.  They see some people become very rich while others remain poor. They are worried they will be left behind, which would be humiliating.

To give some context, I define the Chinese middle class as those who earn an annual income from $10,000 to $60,000. They are mostly urban professionals and entrepreneurs. A rule of thumb is that a middle-class household has one-third of its income for discretionary spending.

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Helen Wang Speaks at Kepler’s on The Chinese Dream

I will be speaking at Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park, California on May 26 about my book The Chinese Dream. Please join me as we discuss one of the most dynamic forces shaping our world today.

Watch the book trailer:

RSVP at http://www.keplers.com/event/helen-wang. Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you there.

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Reviews of The Chinese Dream – Please Share Your Thoughts

I told myself that I would not work during vacation, but here I am, blogging. Well, since several reviews about my book The Chinese Dream surfaced on the Internet this past week, I thought I might as well sacrifice a couple of hours on the beach to write a summary of them.

First, a review by Xujun Eberlein: The Ambivalent Role of China’s Middle Class. Eberlein is the author of Apologies Forthcoming. She has been active in blogging about politics and culture related to China. Eberlein shared her fair views about what she agrees and disagrees with the book, and raised some good questions. I appreciate her opinion and skepticism, which is important as a book reviewer. I would say, though, she might have misconstrued the concept of “oneness” as “monotheism.”  By “oneness”, I mean dynamic balance of differences among different parties that ultimately creates unity. I understand this is a novel idea, but this is the subject of another article.

The second review is by Sinalunya: The Chinese Dream – A Review. Sinalunya is a website aimed at compiling information about Chinese economic, social and cultural relationships.  Sinalunya is obviously a fan of The Chinese Dream. It believes that The Chinese Dream is equivalent to Robert Kaplan’s “An Empire Wilderness: Travel’s into America’s Future”. Frankly, I didn’t know who Robert Kaplan was until I googled him. Now I have to read An Empire Wilderness.

The third review is by Jing Daily: Q&A: Helen Wang, Author, “The Chinese Dream”. Jing Daily publishes articles and newsletters about luxury business and culture in China. Jing Daily posed excellent questions such as what is the negative impact of the Chinese middle class on the global economy, how communism and capitalism coexist in China, and what are the key strategies for Western companies to enter the China market. If you are interested in tapping into the opportunities of the Chinese middle class, be sure to check this out.

What do you like and dislike about The Chinese Dream? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts below in the comment area or click the “Like” button.

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What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Means for Entrepreneurs

I will be speaking at Stanford University on April 12, 2011, on the topic of “What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Mean for Entrepreneurs.” It is part of Entrepreneurship in Asian High-Tech Industries seminar series run by Professor Dasher.

Below is an email announcement sent by Professor Dasher:

Our “Entrepreneurship in Asian High-Tech Industries” series has gotten off to a great start and continues with a *very exciting* session next week:

“What the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class Means for Entrepreneurs”

With Helen Wang, author of the book, The Chinese Dream

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
4:15 – 5:30 pm
NVIDIA Auditorium, Huang Engineering Center, Stanford

It’s fantastic that we could get Forbes columnist, consultant, and expert on China’s middle class, Ms. Helen H. Wang, to find time in her schedule to speak for us this week.   This session in our series is presented in cooperation with The Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Stanford (ACSSS).  I’m also happy to say that Helen is another Stanford alum!

Originally from China, Helen has lived in the U. S. for over twenty years.  After earning her masters degree at Stanford, she joined at the prestigious think tank, the Institute for the Future, in Menlo Park, California, and consulted for Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, Oracle, and Bank of America.  She then became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in Internet start-ups.   In 2004, Helen returned to Stanford as a Reuters Fellow, developing technology solutions for underserved communities. She has also founded a social venture, e-Mobilizer, to help woman micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries use mobile phones to access online markets.  E-Mobilizer has been nominated twice for the San Jose Tech Museum Award.  A sought-after speaker, Wang now divides her time between consulting for companies doing business in China and helping non-profit organizations make a difference.

Her 2010 book, “THE CHINESE DREAM: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You,” describes the explosive growth of the Chinese middle class over the last two decades and tells a number of riveting personal stories, including Helen’s own.  It has received commendations from various prominent scholars and business people, as described on her website.

In our seminar on Tuesday, 4/12, Helen will focus on the implications of this world-changing phenomenon for entrepreneurs in China and Silicon Valley.

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