Young Chinese people born after 2000 epitomise one of the paradoxes of modern China: as the country’s economy hurtles into modernity, the dominant intellectual stance hews toward conservative, Confucian ideals – brands need to take note.

This is according to a fascinating new piece in Jing Daily, the online publication focussing on the luxury industry in China. It explores how, with greater zeal following COVID disruptions, China’s focus on stability and national pride has found a particularly receptive audience in its Generation Z.

Derided by some (older) observers on Weibo as “digital foot-binding”, the phenomenon comes at a time of growing traditionalism which runs counter to the liberalisation and social progressivism that features in many western brands’ campaigns and global strategies. Surprisingly, many of those supporting that shift are often 20 or under.

The reason, Jing Daily suggests, is that Gen-Z grew up at a time of economic boom crossed with a tightening in the state’s cultural output. Traditionalist nationalism was and is presented as a way for China to maintain and strengthen its autonomy from the West.

For certain brands, such as Cartier and SKII, this has meant a shift in their strategy, spurred both by official outlets and in unofficial online forums.

“The official pressure to air advertising with ‘positive energy’ has intensified this year, due to COVID,” said one agency executive who spoke to the publication anonymously. The term is a new one, taken to mean that people ought to devote themselves to both family and state. She added that some social platforms are even prioritising campaigns that espouse this view, though this is not confirmed.

“Back in 2016, it was still possible to do a project that addressed leftover women as SKII did [in Marriage Market Takeover]. Doing something similar today [would be] impossible. I don’t think that ad would pass the censor now.”

Sourced from Jing Daily, WARC