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Little Emperors Establish New Market Trends
Ben Larkman

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BEIJING - China's “little emperors” are growing up, establishing new market trends and creating demand for brand name clothing, Western food, and Western entertainment. “Little emperors” is the name given to the generation born into the One Child policy. The policy began in 1979, and the first wave of these only children has reached their twenties. The demographic includes about 30 million young people.

Although the One Child policy began in 1979, authorities across the country did not begin to enforce it in strength until 1982, when a government survey indicated China's population had passed one billion, and was growing fast. Draconian measures were put into place in many parts of the country, and authorities responsible for family planning committed infanticide and oversaw forced abortions when couples exceeded their one child limit.

Most of these abuses have occurred in rural areas, where the practical use of children on farms, coupled with widespread poverty, have made rural inhabitants resist the One Child policy. The policy has been more successful at reducing the birth rate in urban areas such as Shanghai and Beijing. Urban incomes were higher than in rural areas to start with in 1979, and have dramatically increased over the past few decades. Birth rates tend to fall as incomes rise, and urban Chinese have in their newfound wealth adhered to the One Child policy more willingly.

As a result, the “little emperors” have been born to families with the means to spoil their only children. As the generation of spoiled children reaches their twenties, their consuming patterns reflect a sharp break from the frugality of their parents’ generation. According to a survey by China Mainland Marketing Research Co., an affiliate of the government controlled State Statistics Bureau, the generation prefers imported goods to domestic ones, especially when it comes to clothing and food. The survey also reports that pre-teens drive up to 80 percent of families’ disposable income, after savings have been put aside.

As the generation matures, and spends their own incomes like they spent their parents, experts predict a decline in China's savings rate and trade-surplus, with consumers increasingly choosing trendy foreign goods over cheap domestic ones.

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