A part of young Chinese is turning away from the biggest shopping festival of 11/11, because the pandemic has made them realize the downside of consumerism.
Anita Sun shopped online for the first time in college. She was attracted by the article about a cleanser suitable for oily skin, so she pressed the buy button. Sun used to attend a high school in Hebei, training students like the army to focus on the university exam. When she moved to Beijing, the young girl quickly adapted to city life.
The cleanser was disappointing, but the 21-year-old soon placed hundreds of new orders. There was a time when Sun spent an hour a day surfing Taobao to order. Her parents’ monthly money runs out very quickly, she still has credit card debt.
But two years later, looking back on that day, Sun finds herself brainwashed by consumerism. She removed the Taobao app, sold rarely worn clothes on the second-hand market, and quit watching movies and playing games on weekends. She studies minimalism and posts anti-consumerism advice. “I finally came to my senses. I wanted to focus my energy on more important things, the things that brought me money,” Sun said.
Sun is one of the members of the nascent anti-consumerism campaign in China. This trend attracts young people in the context of slow economic growth and increased competition, especially since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Shopping has become a pastime since the country of billions of people turned into a manufacturing powerhouse. Ads penetrate every Chinese cyberspace from WeChat, Xiaohongshu, Douyin… All transactions can be done while you are watching. Not to mention the live broadcast feature, which attracts A-list stars selling from kitchen utensils to juices, face masks…
Singles’ Day on 11/11 has been used by e-commerce giants for many years. What was supposed to be just one day turned into a three-week shopping frenzy. E-commerce sites and stores will offer limited-time discounts and billions of packages will be shipped by the end of the holiday season.
The younger generation is protesting against rampant marketing and calling it capitalist exploitation. On social networks like Bilibili, Douban videos exposing the sins of consumerism featuring Jack Ma on their cover go viral.
The community called “Don’t buy, fight consumerism” has about 300,000 members encouraging each other against the latest shopping trends: Bubble tea has a lot of unnecessary sugar to drink; most movies are not worth the price of the ticket; clothes promoted by influencers will soon go out of fashion…
There is also the “Crazy Money Saving Group” with more than 580,000 members, where users share challenges of low spending such as “live a week on 100 yuan (VND 370,000)” for people to discuss how to change. Replace expensive products with cheaper products. In the past year, the number of members has doubled. Some people are starting to question their shopping habits during the pandemic when they realize they can save money without being left behind, especially in times of economic uncertainty.
The owner of a dessert shop in Beijing, named Susu, said worries about business slumping during Covid-19 had forced her to correct her reckless spending habits. In the past, she would buy three different colored powders, even though she applied them to her face the same way. Now she pursues minimalism, eating lunch at the thrift store.
This trend could become a problem for the government if it grows stronger. To make China a stronger economic power, the government wants its people to work hard, have more children, and spend money.
However, before the incentives of Singles, many people find it difficult to escape temptation. Statistics of two livestream sales stars sold a total of 19 billion yuan worth of products on the first day of this year’s Singles campaign, October 20.
In thrift communities, some members plan to stay away from lavish shopping. Others are struggling between frenzied sales campaigns and pledges against consumerism. One person expressed that they wanted to buy an exercise bike, another said to spend 4,000 yuan to hunt for discounts…
Anita Sun is determined not to buy anything but tissues and tampons. Recently, she repaired a pair of six-year-old slippers and sewed the button of her pajamas. The screen of her three-year-old smartphone was cracked, but Sun plans to use it for another two years.
“It’s not that I really want to save money, it’s that I realize I already have enough,” she says.
Bao Nhien (Follow Vice)