WHAT CHINESE WANT by Tom Doctoroff


Culture, Communism and China's Modern Consumer
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A primer on Chinese consumers.

Doctoroff (Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer, 2005) is North Asia area director and Greater China CEO for marketing/advertising firm J. Walter Thompson. Obviously a pragmatic person, the author stresses the pragmatism of Chinese consumers. It is vital to understand the individual politics and civic values of Chinese women and men of all ages, he writes, so that they are more likely to purchase products and services from elsewhere. This mostly explains the failure of the Mattel company to sell Barbie dolls and the success of Starbucks to sell coffee and other consumables in a strong tea culture. Throughout the book, Doctoroff treats even the most complicated topics briefly, with each paragraph delivering a takeaway pearl of wisdom. Because the ordering of the chapters seems random, the narrative is choppy, but the writing is clear and authoritative. Doctoroff does not see China as an economic or political threat to the United States, which gives the book a certain calmness too often absent in similar books by authors who seem slaves to xenophobia, no matter how subtle. Doctoroff emphasizes the importance of understanding the Chinese worldview, which is radically different from that of the United States, no matter how much some Chinese express fascination with Western culture. All the outward modernization of Chinese society does not negate the reality that fundamental change is nearly absent, that the watchword is individual ambition, leavened by caution and family loyalty. In an epilogue, Doctoroff offers 10 myths about China, including the myth that American-style individualism is taking root.

A no-nonsense book by an enlightened capitalist.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-230-34030-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2012


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