Why we need to pay attention to Chinese millennials | Sebastian Guo | TED Institute


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney The year is 1418. On the horizon, a shimmering vision
under the blazing sun. This is not a cloud, or anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s an enormous ship followed by dozens and dozens more. Strange men come towards you
in their white robes carrying with them knowledge
and treasures from a distant land. This unimaginable assemblage
was led by Admiral Zheng He who established the first-ever sea route connecting the western Pacific
to the Indian Ocean. The influence of this voyage
was so profound that it changed the local cultures
wherever it landed. With navigation skills,
shipbuilding techniques, Chinese etiquette
and social practices on display. Even today, the impact
of Admiral Zheng’s armada can be traced from Africa
all the way back to Asia. I’m here to tell you that another invasion
is happening 600 years later and this one will impact you. This one is also led by Chinese, but this time, it’s Chinese millennials. (Laughter) I know a ton has been written
and said about American millennials – it’s all you guys talk about! You’re trying to study them, label them, define them, and most importantly,
you’re trying to cater to them. (Laughter) I’d like to suggest that you might be
looking at the wrong group of millennials on the wrong continent. Because whether you’re ready or not, we Chinese millennials
are about to take over the world! (Laughter) But luckily, I’m here to help you. (Laughter) Here are five things you must know for surviving the impending
Chinese millennial invasion. (Laughter) Number one: We are many! (Laughter) Do you know how many
American millennials you have today? 90 million. That’s a lot. Now, imagine that times five. That’s how many of us there are. With a population of around 400 million, we Chinese millennials are proud to be
the third biggest country in the world. Most of the talk about American
millennials is related to the workplace. With almost five times
the amount of American millennials, Chinese millennials
are an enormous labor pool. And we’re being completely
overlooked in the U.S. Who would you rather hire? A new employee who
is the best out of 100 people? Or a new employee
who is the best out of 500? And since there are so many of us, you’ll be seeing more of us
in places you never thought of. Don’t believe me? This guy seems pretty popular here. (Laughter) He might look old;
he’s actually one of us millennials. 20 years ago, who would have imagined that a seven foot-plus
tall Chinese athlete would become the only non-American player
to lead the NBA in all-star voting. Number two: We’re well educated
and super motivated. Because of the high population density
and limited resources, labor is easily replaceable in China. We are required to work harder
and be more motivated just to compete with our peers. We’re surely not
all of the labor pool in China. I contacted Dx Consulting. Today, 57 percent of Chinese millennials
have a bachelor’s degree; 23 percent of us have a master’s degree; and 20 percent have an associate’s degree. And of course, we’re
not just educated in China. In the U.S. in 2014 and ’15, 42 percent
of Chinese students were studying STEM – science, technology,
engineering, mathematics – versus 12 percent for American students. 27 percent of us were studying
business and management versus 16 for all students
studying in the U.S. We are choosing majors
that can give us a competitive edge, and in turn, higher exposure
and impact in Western society. Are you having a hard time motivating
your American millennial employees? (Laughter) Well, Chinese millennials don’t need you
to spend a dime on a Foosball table or an in-house coffee shop. (Laughter) (Applause) We are already super
motivated and qualified. (Laughter) And we’re more than happy
to take on the tough jobs. In fact, we’ve been preparing for it. Number three: We are
the Bruce Lee in Levi’s with a smartphone
who shop online every day. Chinese millennials are multicultural. I even used chopsticks
to eat Georgian barbecue when I was interning here in Atlanta. And I was more devastated
at this guy’s death than my best scores on my Chinese exam. We are really digital. In 2017, smartphone penetration rates
is almost 100 percent for those of us who are ages 18 to 34. We are also shaping mobile payment
as well as the economy. According to a 2017 survey from Labbrand, 86 percent of Chinese millennials
use mobile payment in physical shops at least once a week, versus
45 percent for American millennials. And according to Dx Consulting, we spend four times what American
millennials spend for mobile purchases. The U.S. is the center
of the digital universe. But for how much longer? If you want to buy
the best digital real estate in the virtual world of the future, I suggest that China is a prime location. The good news for foreign companies hoping to capture part
of the Chinese millennial market is that my cohort is extremely
mobile and adventurous. Here’s my personal travel map
for the last couple of years. The desire to see the world
dominates our consumption habits. We aren’t just spending money at home, we are also making purchases
and using web services from foreign companies
like Airbnb and Uber when we travel overseas. Sure, you buy things from us,
and we buy things from you. (Laughter) So next time you have a meeting
on how to exploit millennial markets, keep in mind that Chinese
millennials – not American – are the biggest emerging
consumer demographic on the planet. Number four: We’re big picture people. Do you know how big China is? It’s around the same size as the States. But we all know that
there are four time zones across the contiguous United States. In China, we’ve got one. In China, everything is perceived as one. One time zone, one official language, one party, despite diverse ethnicities and cultures. Our thinking always starts
from the overview to the specific. The Chinese way of writing an address
is country, city, and street. And we write the date:
year, month, and day. And because we are
such big picture people, we focus much more
on growth and the future than Americans in the workplace. We tend to look at a company as a whole
and see how we fit into it. And number five: We’re still
Confucian individualists. Granted, we Chinese millennials are acting
more and more individual nowadays, but ten years of iPhone
and online dating apps cannot wipe out thousands of years
of Confucian cultures. A sense of hierarchy
is still deeply entrenched in our understanding
and construction of social relations. In my mind, a child is supposed
to show respect to his parents just like if I’m a subordinate. I’m expected to show respect
to a senior manager. I don’t think we should disagree
with our bosses or criticize them, at least not directly or publicly. (Laughter) (Laughter) My American friends are more likely
to challenge authority and power, and I think that’s a good thing. We might learn a little bit
from American millennials on that, but I do like our respect
for hierarchy and experience, and I don’t want to see that go away. In 20 years, we’ll all
still be millennials, but we’ll be 40, we’ll be in bigger positions of power, and we’ll have much more opportunity
to change the world like we insist we know
how to do right now. And I really hope we do. Everybody knows the Great Wall of China. Even those ancient walls were crossed
by Admiral Zheng He 600 years ago, and our new border, if we even had one,
is far beyond the old one. Whether you’re trying
to build your own walls, keep out what you don’t want,
keep in what you do, hold in your pride, keep out competition, all those things
are going to happen anyway. The world is flat. It’s flat! But it’s tilted toward China now. (Laughter) And I can assure you, we Chinese millennials are ready to be
the explorers in this new adventure from the Far East. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

9 Replies to “Why we need to pay attention to Chinese millennials | Sebastian Guo | TED Institute

  1. He doesn’t have a clue about Chinese millennials. Most of them don’t want to work and sit in coffee shops playing LOL.

  2. Wow interesting talk!
    You really inspire me to do some documentaries about China millennials!
    Who's with me?

  3. Save your time: "China has a large population, that's why you should care about it"

    Pretty ok presentation but the content is just a bunch of stats that are just thrown without much of a conclusion.

  4. Why are Chinese always trying to compete with the USA? Compete with yourself, you are your biggest competitor

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