Observations from the IPREX Global Public Relations Meeting in Shanghai

By: Jane Grant

The IPREX global meeting of member public relations firms was in Shanghai this year and Maria Pierson and I were able to attend. Here are several top-line observations of China:

1. Every observation is related to China’s population of 1.3 billion. Shanghai, where the conference took place, is the most populated city in the world, with 23 million people.

2. The air pollution is so ghastly that the skyline is concealed in a cloud of haze. Particles of ash drift down from above In Beijing. The consequences of this environmental damage are going to be severe and surely are happening already.

3. China’s growing middle and upper classes are shopping, driving and eating out. Designer brands are everywhere and all the shoppers are Chinese. China consumes one-third of all luxury products in the world, is the third largest market for cosmetics and the second largest movie market in the world.

4. The population is homogeneous. It’s rare to see someone who isn’t Chinese, even in the big cities where all the major global corporations do business.

5. Western cultural influence is everywhere, from Dairy Queen, Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC to Chanel and every other high-end designer.

6. Communism is a misnomer for this economy. It is a totalitarian government controlled by the Communist party, but its economic engine is fueled by capitalism. China bans Facebook and Twitter and controls Internet access, but multi-level malls are packed with young consumers on their smart phones. This is not Cold War-type communism.

7. Families have only one child, a situation which has its own socio-economic ramifications.

China is a unique phenomenon. Visiting even briefly offers a new level of understanding of the global economy.