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