Musicians play folk music with traditional instruments at the U-Salt Festival in Beijing on November 5 (MA LI)
A lifestyle exhibition showcasing ideas and future trends in urban living for people in China attracted over 600 entrepreneurs, artists, scholars, journalists and consumers to the Phoenix International Media Center in Beijing on November 5. The exhibition transformed the Beijing offices of Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television into an open living space that enabled visitors to experience different lifestyle concepts.
The event—the inaugural U-Salt Festival—featured panel discussions between professionals from industry, the arts, academia and the media, and also highlighted over 30 lifestyle activities ranging from gardening to traditional arts and crafts—such as ceramics, wood carving and Suzhou embroidery—to the cutting-edge technology of virtual reality.
Consumption drives transformation
The conference—the largest open activity ever staged at the Phoenix Center—aimed to illustrate the concept of Demands of the New Era for Culture and Lifestyle, and to delve into the question of how to meet the Chinese people's ever-growing needs for a better life.
According to the report, spending on culture and leisure needs has been increasing in the life of Chinese people. More and more consumers have begun to value the personal feeling, aesthetic value and emotional resonance associated with products, instead of just focusing on their essential functions. The new generations of consumers demand more eco-friendly and health-oriented products.
Culture-related consumption is reshaping the nation's industrial and economic structure. The contribution of end-user consumption to China's economic growth rose to 64.4 percent in 2016. And, while consumption becomes the foremost driving force for economic growth, the service sector's share of the whole economy is rising. The state is taking various measures to continuously promote the upgrade of the consumption. Meanwhile, consumers are paying more attention to developing their own lifestyles, turning from quantity to quality and from functional value to cultural value of products.
Panelists at the U-Salt festival shared their thoughts on various developments in their respective domains. Zhao Yingming, vice CEO of popular online shopping platform JD.com, said that in the future, consumers will choose freely whether to shop online or offline. According to Zhao, we are in the midst of the fourth retailing revolution, the essence of which is "unbounded retail."
Chen Hongfei, President of China Everbright Limited, pointed out that in the face of new demands from a cultural life, conventional industries including the property sector urgently need to make use of big data and financial tools to transform the content and model of services, so as to benefit both clients and shareholders.
Chen Lusheng, former Vice Curator of the National Museum of China, mentioned that Chinese people should spend some time each day learning traditional Chinese philosophy and painting, as well as other art forms, to help cultivate their tastes and spread Chinese culture.
Referring to the value of museums to society, Chen said, "A good museums system is a basis for improving people's experience of culture and building a confident national culture."
Wang Yanling, Chairman of Beijing 798 Culture and Creative Industries Investment Co. Ltd., highlighted the example set by Beijing's 798 Art District—a hub of artistic endeavor in the capital— "Chinese families are paying more attention to children's art education and fashion experience. Weekend exhibitions top the list of priorities for the young generations."
Zhao Jia, executive chief editor of China Business News Weekly, defined China's new consumers as people who are aged between 20 and 45.
Zhao said, "As the most vibrant group in China's first-tier cities, they represent future consumption trends. They value good quality foremost and seek craftsmanship and also personality [in products]. They are passionate for writing and value health."
"Most of these consumers are experts in consumption, emphasizing quality service and placing personal experience as the most important factor in consumption," Zhao said.
Growing demands for a better life
Dozens of exhibitors participated in the U-Salt Festival, enabling attendees to sample a wide range of pastimes and lifestyle activities, both traditional and contemporary.
Every experience booth teemed with participants. Among the most popular was the garden design presented by Zhiroom.com, which showed how it is possible to bring greenery into indoor spaces such as offices. All of the festival's exhibitors shared the same ultimate goal of helping consumers develop hobbies and pastimes and thereby improve their lifestyle.
According to Xu Gehui, a well-known Phoenix Satellite Television anchor, white-collar people around the age of 30 spend an average of 35,000 yuan ($5,272) annually on non-essential activities such as traveling and going to the cinema or the theater.
"In the future, we need to help consumers build their own identity and realize a sense of belonging. Women, in particular, need products and services that involve emotional interaction," Xu said.
The report predicts huge potential in the upgrade of mobile Internet users' consumption, and to cater to the burgeoning market, Phoenix Satellite Television launched a mobile Internet platform called U-Salt at the end of 2015, through which consumers can find leisure activities ranging from exhibitions and performances to specialized training courses.
U-Salt founder Huang Xiaoyan said that with version 3.0 of the app issued this June, U-Salt is focusing on social networking to provide a means for opinion leaders to guide consumer choice.
Huang said, "U-Salt pays attention to individuals taking part in activities and the interesting community interactions behind them, and sets up a stage for clients to voice their ideas and opinions."
"We see a good opportunity for business growth in the cultural and creative industries. In the future, Chinese people's ever-growing demand for quality services and more diverse cultural needs mean huge market potential, which might be [worth] as much as several trillion yuan," Huang said.
Copyedited by Chris Surtees
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