Over the past few weeks we had a look at how wine consumption patterns differ between various generations – the Baby Boomers, the X Generation and the Millennials. It was obvious that the research and opinions on these generations had a Western perspective – predominantly American. Today I would like to have a look at the East with a focus on China. Do they have a similar concept of generations and if indeed, can we pick up any trends as to wine consumption?
I found this detailed article on Generations in China. When looking at the Traditionalists and Boomers as described in the article, it is obvious that spending patterns and wine consumption did not have a place in the general community of the day filled with war and socialist rule. People born in China during these two generations, had a much different life to those in Western cultures.
Traditionalists – born between 1928 and 1945
The Second Sino-Japanese War lasted from 1937 to 1945, followed by civil war between the Nationalist and Communist parties and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Chinese growing up during these years were subjected to conflict and their traditional ways were challenged by Mao Zedong’s economic reform. Factories and heavy industry replaced land ownership and peasant workers, which lead to a plunge in Agriculture and widespread malnutrition. They had to do hard physical labour and poverty as at the order of the day.
Boomers – born between 1946 and 1963
Although born in the same time as the Baby Boomers of the West, the Boomers in China grew up in a very different fashion. Under Mao Zedong’s socialist rule, the system of social institutions, schools and churches collapsed and living conditions were difficult. Unlike America where teens questioned corruption, in China, they were loyal to the state and would not dare questioning authority. After Mao’s death in 1976, the Boomers were left disillusioned and uneducated. Other than the Baby Boomers who were well educated and wealthy, the Chinese Boomers became known as the Lost Generation as they were ill equipped to participate in the modern-day world.
The X Generation – born between 1961/1965 and 1979 was the first Chinese generation to live in a consumer-driven society. They grew up in a time of reform, decentralised government and private ownership. By the mid-1980’s living standards, life expectancy and general output were up and an urban middle class was growing.
Although a renaissance of traditional Chinese culture flourished, Western influences like cinema, American brands, cell phones, etc. came to China in the late 1980’s. With all the new information, the X’ers were keen to learn from the “outside” world and economic opportunities existed for those who studies and worked hard.
Y Generation – born between 1980 and 1995
As in the West, Y teenagers grew up in a booming economy with urbanisation and a more open mind-set. With China’s one-child policy, children were raised as the sole focus of doting parents and grandparents and these “Little Emperors” as they were nicknamed, tended to have high self-esteem and confidence.
Their technologically skills were very advanced and international communication at the order of the day. They are confident and competitive with a strong desire for economic success and status.
The X and Y generations in China have much more in common with the West and it is also for these generations that wine is becoming part of their culture.
I paired my experience of the Chinese wine consumption with this article on Chinese Wine Culture to show how drinking habits are changing in China.
- Women as wine drinkers are becoming more acceptable
- Wine is not limited to family functions and formal dinners
- Post work drinks are gaining popularity amongst professionals
- Drinking wine is becoming a sign of wealth and of being cultured
- Wine tasting clubs and specialist shops are becoming popular in first and second tier cities
- The young generation copy Western drinking habits.
- Sophistication with regard to varieties and styles of wine is growing.
- Experimenting with wine is becoming increasingly popular.
- Internet purchasing is very important – more than a quarter of consumers (young people) buy wine online.
But having said this, the Chinese way of appreciating wine still has elements that are much different to what we experience in the West:
- Wine is served in small quantities
- They drink together and often finish the whole glass (only a small quantity) when a toast (gan bei) is proposed.
- Mixing wine with soft drinks such as Coca Cola is not unheard of.
- Although they are not afraid of tannin (they are tea drinkers), they do not like acidity.
- Eastern food flavours are often difficult to match with wine.
- Although wine is slowly becoming more of a lifestyle choice, beautifully packaged wine bottles and well-known brands are still popular – especially as gifts.
It is a fact that China is the new booming wine market – both for imported wine and their own production – and with the up and coming X and Y generations, the future for wine marketing in China does indeed look promising.