Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
11 March 2015 0 Comments

Chai Jing and team, take a bow. Under The Dome was a bold, brave, well researched and magnificently delivered documentary that pulled out all the artillery in the war against China’s deadly pollution.  Whilst it follows a similar mould to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Chai’s 104 minute film is rawer, harder to dispute and much closer to home, and will hopefully make a similar impact on driving awareness and action.

There is no quick fix to China’s pollution problem. The Central Government is investing trillions of yuan and enacting countless laws with the aim of bluer skies, but as Chai’s documentary courageously acknowledges, until self-serving energy policies, corruption and a lack of enforcement are addressed, lungs will continue to be blackened.

The real impact from the film is likely to come from the public participation that it inspires. For the most part, the Chinese public take little individual responsibility for fixing the environment. The majority of consumers believe that is up to the state to fix.

Under The Dome was spectacularly distributed to individuals through digital channels, striking a chord at a deep emotional and factual level. In less than a week, the film was viewed more than a 166 million times on Tencent’s platform alone. Although the movie directs the majority of the blame at policy, enforcement and the state energy firms, segments on personal accountability appear throughout the film, with a cartoon at the end clearly demonstrating how the public can alter their behaviour and report violations.

Even if the movie aroused action from 1% of those who viewed the video – say 2-3 million, it would make an impact in addressing China’s abysmal air quality, while demonstrating the real might of Chinese consumer power.

But that may be too much, too soon. Less than a week after airing, the video was removed from China’s major online video platforms Youku, Tudou and Tencent, and deleted from Weibo’s trending topics. State media was no longer allowed to report on it. The move won’t surprise many and will probably temper the hysteria that surrounded the documentary. Fortunately the horse has already bolted. Even if related terms are blocked on WeChat and Weibo, the public will find ways to discuss it and hopefully millions of individual Chinese will take action so we can all breathe a little cleaner air.

For our readers who will be in Shanghai next Wednesday evening 18 March, China Skinny’s Ann Bierbower will be sharing consumer insights as part of the Austcham Digital Media Series: Storytelling in the Chinese Digital Realm.  More info here.    We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Pollution and the Environment


Fully Translated Under The Dome: Investigating China’s Smog by Chai Jing – Now Banned in ChinaThe online sensation that may lead to bluer skies in China, with English subtitles.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers


Shanghai Tops China’s Disposable Income List, Gap RemainsShanghainese passed Beijingers to have the highest disposable income per capital of ¥47,710 ($7,611) in 2014. Neighbouring province Zhejiang came in third behind Beijing, with the three cities’ income growing 8.9% last year. Average urban incomes across China grew 6.8% to ¥28,844 ($4,603), almost three times that of rural residents.

China Loses Millionaires as Wealthiest Tempted OverseasMore than 76,000 Chinese millionaires emigrated or acquired citizenship in a foreign country between 2003-2013.

China Business Report 2015AmCham Shanghai’s long-running survey found the overwhelming majority of U.S. companies are profitable, enjoy high annual revenue growth, positive cash flows, and strong market share, however long term outlooks are tempering. Just over two thirds of businesses stated their number one priority was to sell in the China market, with revenue from services exceeding manufacturing.

Marks & Spencer to Close Five China Stores as it Reshapes Asian StrategyMarks & Spencer plans to close five of its 15 Shanghai stores and enter key Chinese cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou from this year. The company will also focus on online sales which grew 200% last year.

Chinese Consumers Most Loyal to Ecommerce Players61% of Chinese are loyal to ecommerce players in a survey by Epsilon. Apple received the top brand loyalty score of 17%. Lifestyle brands directly impacting consumer health such as grocery chains and restaurants, and financial services, also scored well. 26% of those surveyed prefer to interact with brands via WeChat.

You Won’t Believe What Youku and Baidu Have as Their Women’s Day DoodlesWhile Google used images of women such as astronauts, scientists and elite athletes to mark this year’s Women’s Day, Baidu opted for a pretty ballerina in a music box surrounded by jewellery and Youku went with a little girl drinking tea amongst flowers.

Online: Internet, Mobiles & Ecommerce


The Stunning Rise of O2O in ChinaOnline-to-Offline (O2O) services were estimated to generate an additional $38.4 billion in China in 2014. 71% of online Chinese have used an O2O service.

Amazon Opens Tmall Store to Boost China SalesAmazon is launching a store on Tmall selling imported food, shoes, toys and kitchenware. A good decision?

Royal Mail to Join Chinese Ecommerce Boom with New Alibaba Tmall Global Shop FrontRoyal Mail has timed the announcement of its new British Tmall Global store with Prince William’s visit to China. Sales of British products on Tmall surged 94% in 2014. Topping the growth chart was the Tangle Teezer hair brush used by Kate Middleton, which has sold 70,000 brushes at ¥114-148 ($18-$24) since launching in May last year. Chinese accounted for 25% of foreign customers on UK-based online stores last year.

Apple Hits New High in China as Xiaomi Balks at Phones for the WestOne in four smartphones sold in China last quarter was an iPhone, according to Kantar. The 4.7 inch iPhone 6 was the top selling device accounting for 9.5% of sales in urban China, versus Xiaomi Redmi Note’s 8.9%.

Premium Food & Beverage


China Has a Healthy Appetite for Food ImportsChina’s imports of fresh milk grew 73.5% last year. Mutton imports climbed 9.6%, fruit 6.3% and wine imports were up 1.6% – at least they still grew. Online sales of imported fresh food soared 300% on JD.com in the 25-day period leading up to Chinese New Year.

China’s Long Food Chain Plugs In: China’s tech giants are delivering solutions in hope of addressing China’s dire food safety.  Chinese consumers can now scan a QR code on food products and track its journey from paddock to supermarket, right down to soil and water tests from the farm it is produced, using a service from Lenovo’s founder. Alibaba allows consumers to buy directly from farmers who follow rules such as limited pesticide use, and Baidu has its smart chopsticks.

Beauty Health


China Is Paying Top Dollar for American Ginseng That Might Be ChineseFor thousands of years ginseng has been a key ingredient in China’s traditional medications and last year they imported $77 million of it from the U.S.

Clothes and Fashion


David Zhao of Shangpin Says Convince Yourself Before Convincing OthersHow online fashion retailer Shangpin competes with China’s online giants and attracted Top Shop as its sales channel for China.

That’s the Skinny for the week! See previous newsletters hereContact China Skinny for marketing, research and digital advice and implementation.