Last updated: 24 february, 2011 - 13:48 GMT

Asia Bling

About this programme by Peter Day

Something quite extraordinary is happening all across Asia, and particularly in China: the rise and rise of what's going to be the great new consumer marketplace in the world over the next several years.

In particular, China is going to dwarf the USA as a consumption paradise. I've been hearing from a few of the people up to their ears in Asia Bling!

I don't think that the world has really woken up to the implications of this.

So many times in the past few decades, the insatiable appetite of the Americans for imported consumer goods has helped the world out of recession or helped to avoid it.

But if China's emerging consuming class put their minds to it – up to 800–million of them, compared with (what?) 200 million adult consumers in the USA – their buying power will shape the needs and demands of the rest of the world.

It will be a very significant change, unless - that is - the message is heeded of the author and consultant Chandran Nair. He's the author of "Consumptionomics".

In a recent Global Business, he set out his argument that Asia needs to reign in its consumption trends, because the world's resources will not be able to cope with China and India consuming the way the west does now.


His ideas may have influence, but in fact the great tilt in global consumption patterns is already happening. In 2010 China became the biggest marketplace in the world for cars. It was already the largest market for mobile phones.

The world's second largest economy, Japan, has just been deposed in status, replaced (of course) by China.

So Asia is becoming the place where global businesses will concentrate their attention, their design skills, their innovation. Maybe it will be innovation around the purpose of reducing the individual's global footprint. But Asia will be the place where outsiders travel to learn the business of customer satisfaction, define it as you wish.

Asian companies will come to dominate innovation and management. Hollywood will lose its hold on the stereotypes of movie adventure and spectacle. The English language as a global lingua franca will be threatened and undermined.

Great changes are underway. The Americans in particular will find the inevitable erosion of their global popular cultural and economic supremacy very uncomfortable


And new and unfathomable influences will shape the world economy.

China is already having a large impact on global inflation trends, with world prices pushed higher by China's insatiable demand for raw material such as coal, iron ore, copper, bauxite and soybeans.

We are coming into the season when the western world's fashion buyers flock to a series of great trade shows in various Chinese cities to decide on their orders for the next half year. They will find - I am told - that wholesale prices have risen something like 18 to 20 percent on last year’s levels.

The rise reflects the jump in raw material prices, and (perhaps) the new government push to emphasise worker's pay in the latest official Five Year Plan.

The China Price

There has long been a chilling negotiating position when executives are negotiating the price of supplies in the West. The buyer will quote what he or she says is the "China Price" the staggering low price charged by Chinese manufacturers for goods delivered to the buyer's port, profit and transport included.

Often in the past, the China Price has been the equivalent of the cost of producing those same goods in the West, before profit or shipping is taken into account - a frightening comparison for a west-based business trying to win a contract.

But if the reports from the great China manufacturing machine are correct, the China Price is due to take a big leap upwards this year. It will have a global impact, obviously. China has become the world’s great manufacturing powerhouse.

There are other worries about the state of Chinese economy as it reshapes to reflect the power of the consumer. Commentators are focussing on the size of the current Chinese housing bubble and what will happen when it bursts.

As we already know in the western world, bubbles always do.

Previous updates - November



  • The media is going through a 'double-mangle' says Peter Day.

  • In San Diego, Peter Day investigates the company that produces WD40's secret formula.

  • Peter Day looks back on a year of the credit crunch with Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF.

  • Peter Day finds out from the experts how to start a bank.

  • Peter Day looks at the great expectations in landlocked Bolivia and its part in the auto revolution.

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