A few years ago - must have been in 2004 - I was visiting my son in Shanghai and while traveling to Pudong Airport to leave, I saw a huge road-side billboard touting the newest, glitziest, apartment complex then under construction. Aimed at the new wealthy in Shanghai, as well as foreigners working there, the title of the complex was "Richgate". Now, "Richgate", completed in 2005 is still attracting tenants and I assume still has the same cache it had when it was under construction 8 years ago. Tom Doctoroff, in his new book, "What Chinese Want", attempts to explain the new Chinese "market" to foreigners who want to do business in China. Though he doesn't talk about "Richgate", Doctoroff writes well about the "New China", the very people who might be attracted to such a project.
Tom Doctoroff is currently head of JWT in China and has lived in Shanghai for ten or so years. He lives in the French Concession in a row-house apartment and was evidently not tempted to live (it up) at Richgate. As an advertising and marketing expert, he takes the reader through the intricacies of selling and marketing to the Chinese. Doctoroff's title, "What Chinese Want" is interesting in itself. Notice he leaves out "the" between "What" and "Chinese", therefore bringing his findings down a bit from the macro "the Chinese" to the micro "Chinese". There's a difference in meaning by leaving out "the" in the title, and unless it was a mistake (which I doubt), Doctoroff gives the reader a bit of a look at the individual person in China, rather than the mass of Chinese, as consumers.
But, in truth, Doctoroff also speaks about the mass Chinese consumer. He writes about everything from interpersonal relationships in both business and family lives, the embrace of some international couture brands but not others, and how the different generations value and purchase items. He's also writing mainly about the new China, the people in the embrace of the quasi-capitalistic/quasi-Communist economy. Those people who've moved from the countryside to the major cities to take advantage of better education and better job opportunities. And with those increased opportunities come the increased pressure to buy into the new society by buying the new products offered for sale. Cars, which are generally a hassle to keep in the crowded cities, are seen as objects of success by both the middle and upper-classes. And if you can't afford a whole Prada purse, you can still make do with a Prada key chain.
Tom Doctoroff's book is a fascinating look at China today from a worldly marketing standpoint. While written for the international marketer, the book contains enough interesting points for people like me who are interested in China and its place in the world.