Wang Han, a Global Times Metro Shanghai reporter, has long been one of my favorite writers here. Recently, she went around the city with a video camera asking foreigners to share their thoughts on various types of Chinese products, including electronic gadgets, bikes, shoes and cosmetics.
Some had favorable views of this and some did not, but what became obvious through Wang’s clever reporting is that many Chinese brands have become much more confident – and even superior to their Western counterparts – as they penetrate the global marketplace.
There are indeed so many new Chinese brands, designs and models proliferating the shelves of domestic and international retailers for consumers to choose from now that we are no longer forced to buy the usual old Western brands that once monopolized markets.
Building on my own experiences from purchasing and using many Chinese products during the years that I have lived in Shanghai, allow me to share how two of my favorite brands, Tsingtao and Air China, became the most potent names in their respective industries while remaining quintessentially Chinese as opposed to trying to copy the West.
I will start with Tsingtao, your best friend at any hot pot joint and the staple beverage for any after-hours “business meeting.” Tsingtao is the definition of Chinese, not only because of its true-to-the-roots label design, but because of the way it is consumed.
Firstly, try to think if you have ever drunk a Tsingtao alone. I myself cannot recall a single time. Tsingtao is meant to be consumed with family and friends; even better, the friends you drink Tsingtao with could very well become your family. That is indeed what happened to me, as the gesture of offering that shiny green bottle of barley juice forged many friendships and familial relations.
What is even better is that Tsingtao is a premium pilsner that costs even less than a Coke; at our beloved canteen at Fudan University, 3-yuan bottles of Tsingtao were even more popular (and cheaper) than bottled water.
Everyday after school, we foreign students got together in the lobby of our dormitory, to share our day and plan our night over cases of Tsingtao. Coming mostly from different countries around Europe, we all loved this Chinese beer even more than the beers from back home – not for its rather indifferent taste but for the memories it gave us.
We have all graduated and scattered around the world now, but Tsingtao is still the invisible glue that keeps us together, as anytime one of us gets a hold of a Tsingtao in whatever country they are at, he or she posts a photo of it in our WeChat group. For all you newbie arrivals in Shanghai, just remember: Tsingtao will unlock the door to your most special moments here.
Air China is another Chinese brand with a true-to-the-roots branding approach. The rise of Air China’s global presence reminds me of the success of Singapore Airlines in creating a big soft power for the small island nation. The rise of Singapore as a country was coupled and catalyzed with the rapid global expansion of its airline.
That airline – along with its exotic and elegant “Singapore Girl” – has become the face of Singapore and well-known for its excellence. Air China is doing a similar thing for China and is becoming the flying face of a nation righteously known for its “transportation genius” in the global arena.
Owing to China’s unprecedented levels of high-speed railways, emerging electric vehicle industry and now its airliners, China is at the forefront of transformation in mobility, with Air China symbolizing just that.
There is nothing generic about Air China, given its all-red hues, traditional Chinese cuisine meals and the delightful hospitality of its attractive cabin crew, you will find yourself in China long before you land. As it expands, the Middle Kingdom’s soft power will only become stronger, solidifying China’s global identity as the world’s transportation hub.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.
Photo source: google images