The Youth In Asia: Cultural Tension And Millennials in China

As a part of the work I do, I am often asked to provide a point of view on “kids these days”. Sometimes it relates to American culture, as more and more Americans coming to China, for example doing internship (more details at, but most of the time it’s a global question.
One of the ways I look at culture in the context of informing brand strategy, marketing and product innovation is using a framework for distilling insights about “deep culture” and “surface culture”: what’s the stuff that goes deep or has a longstanding history and what is more contemporary or topical.

I recently shared some insights i have learned along the way about Chinese youth / “millennials” with regard to deep culture and surface culture. And since the information isn’t “proprietary” (owned by someone who paid for it) and I gave it away for free today, I thought I would share with “y’all”.

So here’s some stuff you might or might not know about those crazy kids in china from a deep culture / surface culture perspective:


  • Rich cultural and spiritual traditions rooted in Buddhism
  • Imperial rule / non democratic government
  • Communism as a longstanding economic reality
  • One-child rule in effect for decades
  • longstanding tradition of adult children caring for elderly parents at home


  • Switch to capitalist economy in late twentieth century
  • Aging population  outpacing  general population due to one child rule
  • Many “only children” coming of age, actively seeking meaningful connections with others / peers and feeling the burden of caring for aging relatives
  • Evolution of communication technology has opened up new ways of communicating with peers and the world


  • It’s still not okay to question authority / government
  • Expressing individuality / uniqueness is not a goal of self-expression: they would rather be approachable and make friends


  • Social media like Kuku (sort of like Facebook) is a popular resource for socializing and self-expression
  • Couples outfits are popular for young lovers
  • Karaoke is a popular bonding activity for all ages, but especially for males
  • Celebrities as spokespeople for popular brands is still a very effective marketing tool
  • shopping malls are curated experiences with different floors of retailers catering to different age groups and life-stages (e.g. high school, college age, young professionals)

Fun tidbits?  I hope so.  Learn something new:  betcha did.  Almost like you’ve been there, huh?  😉  Well, fortunately I have:  and have done the fieldwork / got the T-Shirt, the only thing I completely loved was how the teachers use digital portfolio for kids in their classrooms which for them is an easier way to keep track of their work.  But it’s starting to get holes, so hopefully I can find my way back to the Jack Jones store in Shanghai sometime soon.  In the meantime, I will wear my perspective instead.

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