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China's Super Consumers: What 1 Billion Customers Want and How to Sell it to Them by Savio Chan, Michael Zakkour

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Chapter 2Orientation

A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

—Gandhi

When we advise companies on entering, growing, or changing course in China, we always start with a deep background on culture and history.

“Why?” some of our clients ask. “We didn't come to you for a history lesson or a course in Chinese sociology and ethnology. We came to you for strategy to operate and sell in China” or “I can take language lessons on Rosetta Stone; I don't think any of this language or history stuff is relevant.”

It is. Knowing their history and culture is a prerequisite for understanding and succeeding with Chinese consumers.

You don't personally have to master the Chinese language, culture, history, and mindset to be successful in China. But you have to listen to the people who have done so. Otherwise, one can too easily see the suits and the coffee, the wine, and the BMWs, and conclude that China is a westernized society. It's too simplistic to conclude that appealing to Chinese consumers should be no different from appealing to consumers in a Western culture, say, Brazil—or an Asian market that also developed since the 1970s, say Korea or Japan, and it is also too simplistic to assume they don't respond to many of the things we do; rather you want to find that right mix between change everything and change nothing for China.

Chinese culture, commercial infrastructures, and society have a deeply established logic all their own, built over long periods of ...

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