Handmade World Tour in China: Experiences

From 2016 to 2018, Direktorenhaus organized various exhibitions in China, some of them as part of the Handmade in Germany World Tour. The exhibitions took place in Shanghai, Macao, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Zhuhai, Beijing and other cities. On the whole, positive experiences clearly predominated — but this statement also reflects the insight that a continuous and structured development of customer relations to China definitely takes a long time.

Lesser known cities are just as interesting

In November 2016, for example, it was Shenzhen’s turn, a city we had not originally planned for. The Chinese boomtown is located in the province of Guangdong. In the south Shenzhen borders on Hong Kong. This proximity and its status as a special economic zone make Shenzhen an important city for foreign investment. We were surprised to see such a young audience; after discussions it quickly turned out that these young visitors — who would have been more likely to have been founders in the start-up scene in this country — all held not insignificant positions in various public organisations or private companies. All in all, the assumption that we will be dealing with a comparatively young clientele in China in the future was confirmed: While we still have the classic “connoisseurs” in mind in the european manufacturing and luxury environment, we see many young people looking at the products from a completely different perspective in China. In addition to typical luxury customers, according to studies these are the so-called “opinion leaders”, who account for around 30 percent of Chinese luxury consumers. These approximately nine million customers are either entrepreneurs or managers of large Chinese companies. The majority of opinion leaders are between 25 and 40 years old and mainly live in Tier 1 cities. Like the “hardcore” consumers, they are mostly well educated and often have international experience.

At the handmade exhibition in Shenzhen, we also had many conversations with people we suspected to be middle class. For these people, too, there is a classification in studies that we can subsequently use. With around 4.5 million people, these “mid-class climbers” account for around 15 percent of Chinese luxury customers. As the name suggests, they are social climbers who mostly hold middle management positions in national or international companies. Most of them are between 25 and 35 years old and are able to consume luxury goods due to their professional development.

Our exhibition in Shenzhen led to contacts from surrounding cities, which enabled us to show the Handmade in Germany show in Zhuhai at the turn of the year. The exhibition took place at the Jin Hai An Art and Cultural Center, which recently opened as a new cultural building in Zhuhai.

 

Zhuhai was a discovery: the city is called the “City of Romanticism”, the region is called the Chinese Riviera. For travellers, it is first and foremost an interesting border crossing to Macau. The city has hardly any natural or cultural sights, but is very popular with business people from Hong Kong or Macau as a weekend domicile. Economically, the city belongs to the up-and-coming centres of the country. The currently four golf courses (another two under construction), a racecourse, various amusement parks and other recreational opportunities make Zhuhai a popular place for the Chinese upper class.

There is no China, only regions

China is so large that it offers itself to remain in a certain regional area — despite all political centralization. Zhuhai, for example, is basically like Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Both are special economic zones founded by China on the capitalist model to benefit from the airstream of the two self-governing zones. It was not until 1979 that a fishing village developed into a city with over a million inhabitants, having become a special economic zone a year earlier. On 1653 square kilometers 1.4 million inhabitants live; in comparison, Macau is almost uninhabited. The “Handmade in Germany” exhibition met with great curiosity on the part of the predominantly young public, but also with strong interest on the part of the city’s political leadership.

 

With Hong Kong, the “Handmade in Germany” World Tour reaches its next exhibition venue. In March, the tour presents itself at the UMAG University Museum and Art Gallery. In addition to numerous of its own collections, the museum regularly presents exhibitions of Chinese and Western art. For those who have not yet been there, Hong Kong is an impressively diverse city. The rugged urban area is spread over a semicircle of several hundred islands, which are continuously growing.

With the rising population numbers and the continuing construction boom, so-called “New Territories” are literally emerging from nowhere. The seven million inhabitants make the metropolis located at the mouth of the Pearl River a mega-city. Chinese and English are the two official languages, but the cultural scene is shaped by the majority of inhabitants of Chinese descent and primarily Cantonese mother tongue, who make up 95 percent of the city’s population. The diversity of languages is also reflected in the many religions practiced. Hong Kong’s special status is manifested in its designation as a special administrative zone on the south coast of the People’s Republic of China. Since Hong Kong was occupied by Great Britain in 1841 during the First Opium War and was named its colony two years later, the area provided a shelter for numerous Chinese fleeing from military conflicts over political leadership during the Chinese Civil War (1927–1949). Since state sovereignty was transferred to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, Hong Kong has enjoyed the privilege of a free market economy and the widest possible autonomy.

Tianjin

The local handmade exhibition took place in the centre of Hong Kong, in the UMAG Museum. Afterwards she travelled from Hong Kong to Tianjin. The megacity, which recently became part of the integrated economic region with the neighbouring cities of Beijing and Hebei, is an industrial centre, transport hub and cultural centre with universities, colleges, museums and monuments. Tianjin is famous for its traditional woodcuts and murals, which decorate many homes during the Chinese New Year, as was recently celebrated.

 

The exciting combination of new work designs, intelligent integration and appreciation of tradition and innovation made Tanjin an interesting stop on the “Handmade in Germany” World Tour. Tianjin is an important port city in the People’s Republic of China and home to one of the ten most frequented ports in the world. The entire urban administrative area has an area of 11,943 sqm. Tianjin is one of the four direct government cities in China, i.e. it is directly subordinated to the central government in Beijing and thus has the same status as a province. The city with 7 million inhabitants lies in the north of China, southeast of Beijing, at the confluence of the Hai He and the Emperor’s Canal, which decisively determines the impressive and diverse cityscape. Tianjin’s favourable logistical location also makes it exciting for foreign companies.

The history of Tianjin from a fishing village to a modern trading metropolis goes back many centuries and is strongly linked to the history of the capital. From the 11th to the 14th century, Tianjin was a small seaport of great importance for the imperial court as a grain warehouse. Later, when originally independent empires were subdued in southern China, the city was a transit port for the tributes and deliveries from those empires to the capital. During the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, the Emperor’s Canal leading through Tianjin was finally completed and extended to Beijing. The name Tianjin was given to the city by Emperor Zhudi during the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). At this time, the city was given its supremacy as a port for Beijing and a heavily fortified garrison city. Later, during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Tianjin developed into a flourishing trading centre, which it has remained to this day.

Liaison office in China

After the experiences in China, the Master Council goes to the next level. The aim is to establish a permanent liaison office attached to the liaison office of the city of Berlin in the German Center in Beijing. Over the next few years, a local network is to be set up in China to support market entry. With the representation of the manufactories from Germany, the entry barriers to the Chinese market will be lowered and strategically sustainable partnerships for the placement of the manufactory products will be created. The representative office acts as an interface between the regionally producing manufactories and the Chinese dealers.

Contact Person, Office China
Prof. Jonas Polfuß
polfuss@meisterrat.de
German Center Beijing
Sabine Yang-Schmidt (for Berlin)
Chief Representative China |首席代表
Berlin Government, Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, Representative Office Beijing
Landmark Tower II  |  Unit 1130 |  8, North Dongsanhuan Road  |  Beijing, 10004