This week’s news and trends in China:
Tax-Exempt Fringe Benefits for Expatriates in China Extended till End of 2023: The government has extended the preferential IIT policy on foreigners’ fringe benefits until the end of 2023. Previously, from 2022, foreigners working in China were to lose some tax-free fringe benefits such as housing rental, children’s education costs, and language training costs. The initial plan to end the exceptions this year faced criticism as a driver for expat exodus from China.
China Will ‘Exhaust All Means’ to Lure Global Talent: President Xi Jinping says China’s push for technological independence “must not mean self-isolation.” China must implement proactive policies to lure top professionals, especially for tech advancement, Xi says.
‘Slanted Eyes’ Ad Snack Company in Hot Water Again Over Earlier Campaign Using Revolutionary Red Scarf: Just a week after being slammed online for stereotyping Asian beauty in a 2019 ad using a model perceived to have “slanted eyes”, snack maker Three Squirrels was forced to apologise again after another ad from 2019 has resurfaced featuring unauthorised use of the revolutionary red scarf.
WeChat’s Open Ecosystem Reports User and Engagement Growth: WeChat’s Mini programs’ daily users jumped 50 million to 450 million in 2021. WeChat search users grew 40% to 700 million monthly active users.
China Deletes Social Media Accounts of ‘Livestreaming Queen’: China has deleted social media accounts of Viya and stripped her of a title that promotes honesty on the internet, a day after she was ordered to pay a record $200 million fine for tax evasion. With over 110 million followers on social media, Viya reportedly sold ¥8.5 billion ($1.3 billion) in one evening during the Singles’ Day festival.
Chinese Elderly Slowly Adapt to Senior-Friendly Apps: More companies have introduced apps with larger fonts, but experts say developers need to do more to narrow the digital gap. By the end of 2021, 43 mobile apps and 115 websites — including WeChat, Douyin, and Taobao — have mostly complied with the government directive in December 2020 to provide senior-friendly versions. As of June last year, nearly 30% of the country’s over 1 billion internet users were over the age of 50.
Walmart Arm Did Not Deliberately Remove Xinjiang Goods, China Exec Tells Analysts: Walmart’s Sam’s Club has faced a furore in China over what local media said was its deliberate removal of Xinjiang-sourced products from its app. The move saw a wave of shoppers cancel their memberships and Hema was quick to offer Sam’s Club members access to their similar program. Sam’s club has 4.4 million members in China. Walmart generated $11.43 billion in China last financial year.
Young Chinese Show a Growing Appetite for Plant-Based Diets: 800,000 Chinese watched a 13-hour livestream of plant-based food experts from around the world on New Year’s Eve. China’s vegan food market is predicted to be worth nearly $12 billion by 2023, up from under $10 billion in 2018, with its plant-based meat industry forecast to grow 200% over the next five years. Millennials are the main driving force, with around half doing it for health reasons, and 27% for environmental concerns. Yet China’s growing vegetarian movement has also provoked backlash in recent months.
$300 a Cup? China’s Coffee Lovers Perk Up Bean Prices: Eye-popping coffee prices in Japan can be attributed in part to the expanding ranks of coffee connoisseurs in neighbouring China, whose coffee bean wholesalers are aggressively outbidding their rivals in the international market. The top Panamanian variety is now quadruple 2017’s top price at $2,568 per pound.
China Tightens Control on Whitening Ingredients in Cosmetics: Brands are now required to receive approval from relevant authorities to sell products containing SymWhite 377 in China. Such approvals can take at least a year. The sale of skin whitening products is expected to reach $5.5 billion in 2026.
2022 Is a Year to Call Out Greenwashing in China: President Xi Jinping’s drive for carbon neutrality is creating unprecedented levels of corporate hype about climate action. In the past few months alone, at least 10 companies have sent out invitations to us to visit their “carbon neutral” industrial parks or to learn about their “carbon neutral” products from beer to T-shirts. However, they’re often missing the key bit of information: their emissions. Several other related terms are also gaining wider adoption: “ecological”, “clean”, “green” and “environmentally friendly.” They’re even worse, as their vagueness allows companies to mislead customers, confuse the public and cover up industries and companies that continue to pollute.
All Hail Our Feline Overlords: Cats Prove Way More Popular than Dogs in China: More than 70% of pet owners in a recent survey said they owned cats, versus 40% with dogs.
Luxury fashion brands play it safe for Lunar New Year: Amid China’s crackdown on a myriad of sectors from celebrity fan culture to gaming, as well as Chinese netizens’ lower tolerance for tokenism, brands are approaching the holiday with caution.
Tesla Takes Customers to Court to Silence Its Critics in China: Faced with a series of public-relations and branding crises in China, Tesla is resorting to an unconventional strategy: suing its critics. In the past six months, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle giant has filed defamation claims against at least two Chinese citizens who raised concerns about the safety and quality of its vehicles. Tesla alleges the individuals groundlessly damaged its reputation and is asking for steep compensation. Meanwhile, the company’s in-house lawyers have taken to threatening social media personalities who publish similar views with legal action, demanding they retract the posts and apologise publicly. EV sales grew 254% in China last year to 3.3 million vehicles.