About Jillian Krumholtz

Studying abroad at the University of Dundee during the Spring semester of 2012!

Generations and Technology

Many would agree that one of the most useful ways of understanding China is from a generational perspective. The intense political, social, and economic changes that China has experienced during the past four decades have brought about the formation of very different generations. These generations have each lived through different and at times difficult times, resulting in each of them to view and possess certain attitudes towards various aspects of life. This is something hardly seen in other parts of the world, but China is such a fast changing market that it has created totally different generations or sets of consumers in this short space of time.

The oldest generation of China grew up during the early years of the Mao Zedong era as well as living through the difficulties of the Cultural Revolution. I have found that they tend to be more conservative and having been still affected by the old China, they still hold traditional Chinese values. These people lived through many changes during the past thirty years, but have a distinctly nationalist outlook. Many have the feeling that their country has let them down and that they have missed out on opportunities that are now currently on available in China. The generation after that, which some have come to call the “Open Door Generation” was part of China’s transformation as well as the development of the first middle class to be produced in the country. They were the first generation to get their hands on money and because of it this generation possessed a strong sense of materialism. In order to limit the Chinese population, the One Child policy was introduced. The “Take Off Generation” was the first to experience the effects of this policy. Since families could only have one child, their single, precious child was spoiled and given every privilege, which differs from the old Confucian society where elders were obeyed, shown reverence and given privileges. The newest generation, the young people of China, has become much freer than their ancestors; they take greater risks, and largely believe in self-expression and in the words of Lady Gaga being “born that way.” This generation has grown up only knowing a growing and prosperous China, and being that the One Child policy is still in effect, consumer and psychological behavior has been shaped in favor of young adults that have been accustomed to having things handed easier to them. This has all allowed the infiltration of western culture, brands, and globalization to become stronger and has fostered a new desire for the freedoms and lifestyles of the West, and a greater awareness of Western ideas.

These Chinese generations have different desires for technology. Their generational characteristics play an important role in determining their attitudes towards new technologies. The biggest media phenomenon in the world is the Internet. China still remains a controlled society in regards to mass media. If consumers want to see something global that does not suit government favor, than they use the Internet. The Internet has allowed information to be circulated very rapidly. The use of the Internet can be seen in all generations. Each generation has their own specific reasons for using the Internet, but it is well utilized by all generations.

The oldest of the Chinese generations are the furthest removed from technology. They had not grown up with these advancements and were not at all prepared for the emergence of new technologies like the Internet. A few of them have a desire to explore the new technologies but are rarely given the opportunities or just simply do not have the patience to learn and understand how to use them. In some families, the younger family members simply do not trust them to maintain the safety or security of the device. Older generations seem to be extremely aware of the educational benefits of new technology and help to provide the opportunities to use these technologies to their children. For their personal use though, they are fine with not using it or accept hand-me-down devices from their children.

With computers rapidly occupying workspaces during the mid to late 90s, the generation of Chinese parents has had as many compliments as they have complaints in regards to technology. The majority of the people were not educated about technology at school but had to step into the workplace where computers and new technologies had taken over. Those who had the rare chance to learn how to use a computer usually secured better jobs. However, this Chinese generation has been starting to consider the negative effects of technology. Some attitudes towards it have now started to include how technology has taken too much away from their physical world and an imbalance in their work and personal lives. The youth of China though was born with technology. With the vast majority growing up as a single child, phones, computers, and games were used to substitute for a lack of socialization with a sibling at home. The Internet has become a very convenient outlet through which to socialize with people around the world. This has led to western ideas and culture to become more popular in China. Today you will find the young, urban Chinese drinking Starbucks, texting and surfing the web obsessively, while their parents have a greater desire to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder.

 

 

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Made in China

When asking around, everyone or at least the majority of people would say that everything is made in China. That is what it seems like. It seems to be the consensus of local Dundee shoppers. Being American, every time I look at a product to see where it was made, I would normally see China. This may not actually be the case though. San Francisco Federal Reserve economists recently pointed out that goods labeled “Made in China” make up only 2.7 percent of U.S. consumption. It seems to be that even though China manufactures a small percentage of goods, those goods are the most popular and purchased items. Manufacturing in other countries is not dead. It is struggling and merely a shadow of itself. Another look at the US shows, one-fifth of all furniture bought by Americans last year was made in China, compared with 60% made in the U.S. In fact, some 35% of the clothing and shoes bought in the US were made in China, which is actually a greater share than the 25% of these items made in America. Similar numbers can be seen in the UK.

Further delving into the attitudes of shoppers, I came across many opinions on seeing “Made in China.” That label associated the product with being “crap” or potentially dangerous. Some people have now just refused to buy anything that has been assembled or made in China. Western suppliers of goods know that. They seem to try and hide the country of origin on the packaging unless they’re legally obliged to announce it. Researching this a bit more on the Internet, I came across how more companies are now using the phrase “Made in the PRC,” standing for People’s Republic of China, in an attempt to try and hide the fact that it was made in China. Shoppers do not usually know about the PRC and will buy these Chinese goods thinking they are not actually manufactured in China. Why would companies want to hide the fact a product was made in China or why would someone refuse to buy Chinese-made goods? “Made in China” has been now associated with disproportionate profit versus cost to consumer, underpaid and dangerous work conditions, disregard to intellectual rights, and poor quality. There have been a numerous amount of recalls on products from China and it has only furthered to solidify the association of bad quality goods with China. Consumers do receive good quality value from Chinese-made appliances for the most part. Home appliances are a popular good that consumers buy that is manufactured in China and they are of good to decent quality. It is when it comes to food products and ingredients, that there is a safety issue on top of the quality issue. Recalls on food and pet food have caused a stir that leads to the consumer’s doubt of China.

When your coffee machine stops working, it can easily be returned or replaced but when and if the food is unsafe, it is entirely a different matter. China is home to 22% of the world’s population but has only 7% of its total arable land. China’s agricultural policies and their economic impact are of interest to the rest of the world as the country is more integrated into the world market. There has been some progress in bridging the UK and China. The China-UK Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) has been established to provide a good foundation for the development and execution of China-UK collaboration on environmentally sustainable agriculture. It will support the aims of the existing China-UK Sustainable Development Dialogue (SDD) and provide a flexible and largely self-sustaining platform for long-term China-UK collaboration. In the long run, consumers would hopefully have more trust in buying Chinese manufactured products and produce.

If we turn to take a look at China, China has made a fortune producing cheap products that sell for low prices around the world. Yet many of the high-end goods manufactured in China, like iPods and designer handbags, actually cost more in China than they do in other countries, especially in the United States. Products like this cost more in China because of the country’s high transportation fees and local government corruption. “Last year, a trucker in East China’s Henan Province was caught using fake military license plates to avoid paying tolls along a 110-mile stretch of road. It’s easy to see why: Tolls and fees for a single trip are $230.” If these truckers were to actually pay all of the tolls and fees legally, it would be entirely impossible for them to make any kind of profit. Also, taxes play a major part in China’s goods. High-end goods cost more here because China taxes them so much. But in the world market, wealthy Chinese are willing to pay extra in their country for authentic products they can show off.

Graphic Design in China

We’re all very familiar with graphic design from the west, particularly in the US and UK. Graphic design from other areas like China, is a bit different, but still very aesthetically appealing. Graphic design is still fairly new in China, only being about a decade into its exploration. Graphic design is starting to be applied to everything instead of just being used for political propaganda. So what is actually happening now in the country? China has started to become modern and the youth of China are starting to explore and push more boundaries. Most of the graphic design work that is going on now is done by these fresh, new 20/30-something year olds. In Shanghai or Beijing contemporary art is becoming very popular and these new art scenes are becoming a good environment for graphic design. “In China, there are really interesting statistics about design students since the economic boom – because there are twenty to thirty times more design students and it’s increasing. However, this is not really healthy, because they employ all of them.”

China is booming with creative energy but yet holds a strong sense of nationalism, so it’s no surprise that modern graphic design still employs the same design elements found in traditional Chinese art. Many of the styles of the Chinese graphic designers combine old-styles with simple lines and colors. A lot of the work has been inspired by the West, and especially by Japan. “A huge range of influences, from Japanese Manga and western pop to traditional folk art underline this generation’s struggle to create a fresh sense of Chinese creative identity while also highlighting the dramatic changes that have transformed the practice of design in the country over the past few years.”

An artist named Hei Yiyang founded his own design firm, SenseTeam in 1999 and is still the creative director. SenseTeam has been an emerging design company through the past few years. Hei Yiyang himself has been said to “already be a noted pioneer of cultural exchanges in China.” He has focused his works on branding, exhibition planning, environmental design, and publishing. He has won numerous competitions and gained more than 100 international awards. Hei Yiyang devoted himself to putting different mediums, including graphic design together to make his works interesting, meaningful, and valuable. His book design is absolutely notable but also his works using fluorescent lights are particularly unique. He is a perfect example of this fresh outlook on graphic design. Hei Yiyang has been featured in a book that samples new graphic art in China, from print, packaging and logo design to award-winning graphic design, 3030: New Graphic Design in China, along with 30 of China’s brightest young designers.

Xiaoyong has also been a key figure in Chinese graphic design. He is a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and is well known in the field. Xiaoyong has been awarded more than 40 times and has been chosen as a jury member in many major Chinese national graphic design competitions.  His most notable work has been working for the Beijing Olympics. For the 2008 Olympics, he designed the Olympic Medals. This really allowed his name and work to get out there and be known. He has done a lot of other logo and poster work as well and works with many different companies in China.

It is becoming obvious now that graphic design does not belong to the domain of the propagandists anymore.  China still has a fair way to go before it can claim to be a creative hub, but the work coming from China certainly shows that its emerging generation of young graphic designers is on its way.

China’s Image

Everyone has very different worldviews especially towards China. I myself have never been to China so I view the country through what I have heard or seen, which is probably all based on stereotypes and misconceptions. I spoke with a friend, Jake, who has actually visited China. He gave me some insight as to what his own expectation were of China and how it differed and was what he expected after experiencing the country first hand. Jake went to China for school credits in the summer of 2010. He decided on China primarily because he always wanted to go. He told me, “Ever since I was little, China had this mysterious beauty to me. The Great Wall and Forbidden City were the two places I’ve always wanted to go in my life.” Growing up myself, China never really appealed to me. I had always associated China with communism or with a lack of freedoms, but also with delicious food. It was interesting to talk to a friend and see that China had always been an interest to them. My friend honestly and absolutely loved China, everything from the food to the clothes to the entertainment. It was something he said he would do again if the opportunity ever presented itself again.

I asked him about his thoughts and expectations he had about China before leaving. He went on to say, “I thought when we landed in Beijing that we were going to be in this semi-futuristic metropolis, but when we got out of the airport, there was nothing around us but fields. I was expecting to see people going around walking in crazy different clothing, but everyone dressed somewhat normal. The rest of my stereotypes and feelings towards China were correct in the sense that almost everything I had pictured was exactly true.” Expecting the Chinese to dress in stereotypical Asian garments is what I would have come to expect as well. This stereotype is just one of the many that have been implanted in the minds of the tourists.

A lot of different people apparently told my friend Jake that you have to go to China every few years to see how much it’s changed, but specifically in our area in New York, all he heard before leaving was “CHINA’S A COMMUNIST COUNTRY! THEY’RE GOING TO KILL YOU IF YOU TALK ABOUT SOMETHING THEY DON’T LIKE.” Clearly there are still many people around that have fallen prey to the negative portrayals of China. “That wasn’t the case at all. Everything seemed mostly normal, granted yes we were in a communist country, but it was nothing like how I have seen the Chinese people being portrayed. They’re not all robots. They all have personalities just like the rest of us.” There can be a lot of close-minded people out in the world who only listen to what they are told and do not question or make their own opinions on places like China.

There is a certain way that China is sold to tourists, some of it matches up correctly with reality, and some parts are a little exaggerated. Jake said, “When I was there, the Chinese loved the tourists, and from what I saw, they treated them with a whole lot of courtesy. I feel like the Chinese just want to show other countries that they’re not as bad as some people think they are. They definitely want people to see them as just like everyone else.”

(Pictures courtesy of Jacob Picard)