China might be a “nation shaped in consumerism,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean Western-style consumerism. In fact, the country’s cultural and social changes have led to a new context where global brands are negligible, and domestic players are threatening their supremacy. But make no mistake about it: The rise of local brands is not a phenomenon that happened overnight.
Inkstone points to research by Bain & Co. to show how, since 2016, foreign brands have grown their collective sales by 9 percent, while domestic brands grew by 15 percent during that time. Meanwhile, according to a report released by a think tank with the China Economic Information Service based on data from e-commerce platform JD.com, “the increase of total online orders of Chinese products was 8 percent higher than that of foreign brand products in 2018.”
In 2018, Forbes also highlighted how Chinese consumers had an increased affinity for homegrown luxury brands. “What remains somewhat under the radar is China’s growing clout as a luxury brand’s incubator, not merely a country of luxury consumers,” said Christophe Caïs, a Forbes Councils member. “With Chinese buyers embracing homegrown brands, the big names of Western luxury might no longer carry the same weight only a few years from now.”
Today, Chinese luxury consumers continue to snub international brands, and they’re becoming increasingly nationalistic. The ongoing trade war, accusations of intellectual property theft, and demands that the U.N. recognize China as the official origin of COVID-19 have made the US-China relationship highly dysfunctional. Consequently, it’s not surprising that Chinese consumers are choosing patriotic purchases.
Sinophobia has also increased in the US, and Chinese consumers feel like they’ve become America’s scapegoats, getting blamed for an inevitable health crisis that they didn’t provoke. But grassroots nationalism is changing the conversation, and young, politically-engaged consumers are embracing domestic brands in response to current global events.