From navigating zero covid measures and travel restrictions, to China’s embattled real estate sector, these were the five stories that captured the most attention on Focus this year
1. How to travel to China in 2022
Can you travel to China right now? The short answer is yes, but there are processes in place that you need to follow. Tom Simpson, CBBC’s Managing Director of China Operations and China Chief Representative, recounted his journey to China from the UK in August 2022 and shared important tips for those looking to do the same.
Note that as China’s zero covid apparatus starts to wind down at the end of 2022, the requirements for quarantine, testing and health codes are likely to change rapidly, so be sure to check before making travel plans.
2. How does Xiaohongshu work and why is it so popular?
Often compared to Instagram or Pinterest, Xiaohongshu (or RED in English) helps users discover and buy luxury, fashion and beauty products. What is notable about Xiaohongshu is that it has created an environment that allows consumer hype to drive exposure rather than the brands themselves setting the narrative. Fans come to the platform to hear the real story on foreign fashion brands or to get the inside scoop on beauty tips and tricks with the products they use every day from people they can relate to. With the cost of media in China ever-rising, using Xiaohongshu as a sandbox to find your brand’s community in China is a savvy way to test the market in 2022 and beyond.
3. The best 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics advertising campaigns
The Winter Olympics naturally generated plenty of column inches at the start of the year, but Focus was interested in how businesses interacted with the event. For example, major brands like Coca Cola and P&G created advertising campaigns that incorporated local Chinese elements — a trend that is likely here to stay in 2023 — while others turned to brand endorsements from the biggest star of the Winter Olympics, Eileen Gu. What’s more, simmering international tensions meant that brands had to think carefully about the tone and content of their advertising, something that will continue to be a key consideration when interacting with the Chinese market.
4. China’s real estate crisis explained
China’s real estate sector used to be a key driver of the economy, but the tide turned in 2021-2022 and now it’s starting to drag. Failure to regulate the sector in boom has left the country with limited options in bust, and as a result, in 2022, UK companies were beginning to be impacted because Chinese partners were defaulting on their payments due to cash flow issues.
In November 2022, the Chinese authorities unveiled measures to rescue the struggling real estate sector, including credit support for indebted developers; however, in the long-run, ambitious structural reforms concerning how the developers work with local government, state-owned banks, and their customers will be required.
5. Are Gen Z Chinese consumers getting tired of the guochao trend?
The term guochao (国朝), meaning ‘national trend,’ refers to a trend in which young Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in the integration of traditional Chinese culture and style with domestic brands and products. Since 2018, brands like L’Oréal, KFC and Oreo have attempted to tap into this trend by showcasing designs and collaborations inspired by Chinese culture. However, a slew of unpopular collaborations and product launches show that to successfully navigate the guochao trend going forward, brands need to showcase a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and the preferences of their target audience, rather than simply sticking Chinese design elements on product packaging.