posted on November 25, 2008 22:03
I meant to put this up before now, one of the sharper observations by ever-sharp China observing research group Access Asia in one of their recent weekly newsletters. If you think the Western world suffers from materialism, see what marketing executives are doing to China, creating a day for the country’s singles (men, mostly): on November 11 China's single men can give each other cards says Access Asia:
“To compete with the glutinous and embarrassing mess that is Valentine's Day, Chinese youth now has Bachelor's Day. This is the day when all China's sad men, who can't get a girlfriend because the gender split is so skewed, or because they simply don't consume in the prescribed way shown in the adverts, will get to do whatever bachelors do when they are feeling a bit lonely. A possible marketing opportunity for the disposable paper products manufacturers, perhaps?
Chosen to be on this day because four "1s" represents singledom (apparently), it is unlikely to be made an official holiday, as with Valentine's Day, but it will probably develop into a marketing opportunity for someone. Hallmark cards will no doubt find ways to get Mr. Nofriends to buy himself a card celebrating his solitude, whilst we suspect the fast-fat industry will see potential in promotions of special sad-singleton meals, to help these lonely hearts get fatter, spottier and even further removed from a position of attracting a mate.”
I know plenty who fit into the above sad-but-true description, the kind of people who rather talk on msn than taking a call. Most are Internet introverts who spend their spare (and some working) time in the virtual world. No wonder they're single. China’s massive Internet usage rates (though still low as a % of population, compared to the US) are often used touted as proof of the country’s economic development – and constantly cited in the powerpoint presentations of people who run e-commerce sites or who want to sell something on one of them. Trouble is, in 99% of the times I’ve visited an Internet café in China 99% of the users were playing computer games, or using chat programmes.
China's social life is shifting online. Of a group of 20 locals, of all ages, who I teach English to on Saturdays only two know their next door neighbours. Another friend who edits copy at 6,000-staff China Radio International out in Babaoshan, says that workers, once they’ve eaten, come back from their dorms (it’s common in many state-run organizations to live in the compounds) and go online till it’s time to sleep. Evading boredom maybe, but how the hell do they meet a partner? Welcome to ever more individualistic China. Marketing executives ought to be happy, they’ve been long enough convincing locals to be individual and consume to be happy. Belated happy Single’s Day.