China is changing… but ‘delayed gratification’ could help.

I have lived in China for a few years now and it is very obvious that things are changing at a rapid pace.

Change is a good thing. More people are being taken out of poverty, construction is providing jobs, expansion to the infrastructure and investment is everywhere and there is a real community spirit.

Family and community is central to everything I see, hear and come to understand and I think there is much to learn from how China is growing.

Not everything is right and I get that, and this blog is not about all that other stuff. This is about highlighting the rapid change and sharing some of the change with you – China is what I would now describe as a Socialist country that has a political structure, at the top, that resembles the communist party in imagery only.

The political side of China is a big topic and something I don’t know enough about to fully comment on…. what I do know is what I see, and I see a whole lot of consumerism.

The commercial side of China is expanding at a exponential rate and the size of the current and the potential market is vast.

People are encouraged to spend and this is one of the things that I see evolving within the complex social culture in China.


Previously, Chinese people saved a lot… it was all about gathering wealth for the next generation and it is a culture that seems to be very comfortable with money and talking money.

It is very much a trading culture, money and commodities have always changed hands and it is a way of life here.

But what is on offer here now is way beyond what it used to be. Any brand that you can think of is represented in China and you can buy it across any platform. Online, bricks-and-mortar or through a third party process such as Shopping Clubs, Banks (yep banks sells things) or TV/Social media Influencers and the ‘tools’ that they champion…. it is full on. Everywhere.

Ownership and the desire to buy things is driven by technology and the uptake in technology, in particular mobile technology, is breathtaking.

Basically, you need a mobile phone to get anything done. It’s a staple requirement to life in China.

The pressure to purchase is woven through every aspect of life now and although I am mostly exposed to life in Beijing, I have travelled to many other cities and I see the same thing unfolding.

There is a downside to all of this, and it is how I see it play out on the younger generation who have grown up in a very modern age.

The younger generation wrestle with concept of being super consumers. Balancing all the things that they are encouraged to buy and the life they want to lead, against the traditional backdrop of saving money, supporting the older members of the family and living a humble life.

This is not easy for the young generation, but it is consumerism and it is something that we should all learn to resist.

No matter where you are from, resisting the impulses driven by any market is a necessary skill.

My hope is that China doesn’t go the way of the west. By that, I mean where personal debt is managed and accepted and people live a payday-to-payday lifestyle.

I have seen too many people in my life chase the concept of owning things and because of easy accessible credit, they loose out in many ways beyond the money.

‘The things you own end up owning you’

Chuck Palahnuik, Fight Club.

I hope many of them learn the idea of delayed gratification and spend more time window shopping, eating great food and time with the family rather than chasing the newest and greatest.

Delay of gratification, the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future. The ability to delay gratification is essential to self-regulation, or self-control.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

I work with the younger generation here in China and I see how they navigate the pressures of this new modern life.

Whenever I am asked by someone for some comment on what I see developing in China, it is mostly always positive. I share some thoughts on the ‘watch for’ on consumerism, but I usually steer the chat towards the learnings from my experiences from life in the West…

  • Don’t do debt, it is costly.
  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Save a lot of money early on in life.
  • Owning things doesn’t give you happiness
  • Live a life where minimalism is a core belief
  • Enjoy experiences and appreciate great food.
  • Budget for a full life and know that it ends.
  • Always be learning something.
  • Quality over quantity wins every time.
  • Surround yourself with people that laugh a lot.

This advice is always so warmly welcomed, received and understood because their concerns are real – and this simple advice reflects what they are experiencing.

It is always amazing how is humans are the same the world over and what works is universal.

This is why I believe in the positivity of the human spirit… because, for what I see, we are all the same…

At the core, we all want the same things…


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