Inventing new reasons for consumption especially of unnecessary items has been a successful way to increase demand within the current economic system, which relies on everlasting growth. Convincing people that made-up events based on fake stories about their base in tradition like Valentin’s Day and Halloween necessitate spending money on perfume and decorations or changing the core of events in the calendar from religion to consumption like Easter and – soon to come – Christmas has helped to sustain a world order based on the production of pollution, waste and rubbish.
This year, many consumers fear that this year Christmas presents will be in short supply thanks to the disruptions of production in China due to the politics of the government with regard to the SARS-2-CoV problem, the production and pricing of coal, energy shortages and the temporary closure of major harbours. A growing demand meets a dwindling supply also for other resources, hindering the production of cars in Germany and pasta in Italy and the transport of goods from Asia to Europe and North America.
In China, ever less hypocritic than Western cultures, the invention of new consumption festive days saw no need to camouflage them with stories about chubby white bearded man in a red coat or the cries of Irish banshees. The most successful of these inventions has been the 11th of November, in the beginning based on the idea that this could signify a day for bachelors because of the four times the number One is used for this date, resembling a “bare stick”, a word used for bachelors in China. Within little more than a decade, Double Eleven has grown to the largest shopping day in the world, with Alibaba and JD capturing the biggest amount of turnover.
Choosing the date Double Eleven might also, by the way, be seen as helpful to eradicate the memory of the traditional Double Ten celebrations, commemorating the uprise in Wuhan on Oct. 10th, 1911, that led to the end of the Manchurian rule over China and within a few months to the establishment of China as a nation as opposed to the previous dynasties.
In any case, this year the world was looking carefully on the results of the buying bonanza of Double Eleven as an indicator of the willingness of Chinese consumers to spend. Alibaba announced an increase of 8.5% compared to 2020 with a total gross merchandise volume of 85 billion USD, much less than the 26% jump Alibaba posted last year, compared to 2019.
Alibabas main competitor JD.com recorded “only” 55 billion USD gross merchandise volume, however representing an increase of 28.6% compared to 2020, almost on the same level as the 2020 increase of 33% growth.
This results led in the past days to a discussion if the glass is half full or half empty. Growth has slowed down compared to previous years, but still there is a considerable growth with mind-numbing absolute numbers.
Part of the money spent would probably have been used for trips overseas instead, given the chance to start such trips. So it remains for the global tourism industry to hope that in 2022 some of the 140 billion USD spent for Double Eleven 2021 will find its way into the industries’ pockets.
However, the behaviour while travelling abroad will for many Chinese change in the post-pandemic period from the old Chinese “3S” of Shopping, Sightseeing, and Self-Glorification to the new Chinese “3S” of Special Interest, Slowing down and Self-Improvement.
As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI WEEKLY team!