China’s Youth Define “Cool” – Jeff Smith and Jean Wylie

From The China Business Review (link): A new survey may help companies capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of Chinese youth.

Imagine a population roughly the size of the Netherlands’, made up of a generation of only children. Add the words “newly rich,” “fashion-savvy,” and “young,” and you have just described China’s millions of university students. To tap into this lucrative market, companies must first discover what these students want and how they think.

A recent survey conducted by Hill & Knowlton (China) Public Relations Co. Ltd., in conjunction with Seventeen magazine (China) and Sinomonitor International, set out to uncover students’ dreams and aspirations, their role models and preferences, and their definition of “cool.” The April 2004 “China Cool Hunt” survey polled 1,200 18- to 22-year-old students from 64 universities in Beijing and Shanghai about the who, what, and why of cool. Half of those surveyed were from Beijing and half from Shanghai; the gender split was also 50-50. The surveyed students majored in 97 different subjects”though English was the most common”and came from 229 cities in 27 provinces.

The China Cool Hunt survey found some expected, but also unexpected, views among students. When asked to describe their personality traits, survey participants defined themselves as honest, friendly, and easy-going. Yet Chinese students also displayed a remarkable independent streak”26 percent defined themselves as individualistic and 76 percent described themselves as entrepreneurial. These students also know what they want”including independence within the workplace. Almost two-thirds agreed that, “Sooner or later it would be better to work for myself than be employed by a company.”

China’s university students are optimistic, full of confidence in themselves and their judgment, and believe they can achieve their goals. Seventy-two percent of the survey participants”young men and women scored nearly the same”are optimistic about their future. Just over half of the students surveyed agreed with the statement, “I usually manage to get what I want.” And according to the survey results, students also do not seek guidance”they are happy to make their own decisions and follow their own ideas.

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