Why do people love Made In China

Sieren's China: For love

"Where's my iPhone 7?" 17-year-old Chen Ting from Shanghai asks her boyfriend. But she's not looking for her misplaced phone and asking for his help in finding it, instead she asks for her gift for Valentine's Day. The iPhone 7 is just a placeholder for an expensive gift.

With this expectation, she is not alone among the Chinese millennials, i.e. those who were born between 1980 and 2000 and are therefore between 17 and 37 years old today. Often, however, expectations do not end with an iPhone 7, the cheapest version of which in China costs around 700 euros. The good old saying that a relationship is first and foremost work would mean, among Millennials, that a relationship is expensive. But in order to really let the fire of the heart flare up, more and more and ideally expensive gifts must be found. Love goes through the wallet.

Love is no longer a taboo at a young age

It sounds like a bad joke to European ears, but it's rather old hat among young people in China. They want a relationship, nobody wants to be without a boyfriend or girlfriend. This has changed drastically, at least among the over 16-year-olds, compared to the past. A few years ago it would not have been acceptable to have relationships at such a young age. Above all, good grades and thus a good career basis were in the foreground. But that again left many with no time to meet or have a friend. And suddenly there were a number of well-educated Chinese who by their late twenties had little experience in love. But the social pressure is great: The majority of the population still believes that women who are not under the hood in their late twenties are considered "left over". And accordingly has increasingly poor chances on the marriage market. The gifts then suddenly become smaller.

The other side of the social pressure comes mainly from the fact that people in China do not express their feelings. This is also not the case in love. Because hell, you don't want to put the three words "I love you" in your mouth. The loss of face is too great if love is not returned. In return, the young people then express their affection in all other possible ways. An iPhone 7 as a gift to say "I love you" is often accepted.

Investing in the loved one is a must

It is expected that up to a quarter of the monthly salary will be spent on it so that love has depth. After six months, some young people have invested around 10,000 yuan (the equivalent of 1,300 euros) in their loved ones without being sure that it is really worth it and that they will get there.

DW columnist Frank Sieren

Last Valentine's Day - which in China is not celebrated in February, but in May - the opportunity was used to express affection through gifts of money.

Instead of chocolate, flowers or a card with a personal message of love, there are gifts of money. 520 yuan (the equivalent of around 80 euros) must also be there. The numbers 520 (May 20th) sound like "I love you" when pronounced one after the other. The gifts among lovebirds in the Middle Kingdom differ enormously from those in the West. Expressing "I love you" in monetary form is both pragmatic and romantic at the same time. This was exemplified for the young people primarily by their parents, who also express their love for the generation of only children in the form of (money) gifts. No wish that would be too expensive for them. Because the more expensive, the more you ultimately love the little tyrants.

A generation that is used to prosperity

Millennials are also the only children born during China's economic opening. A generation that fortunately only knows the bad times their grandparents or parents have experienced from the history books.
If they come from good middle-class families and live in the metropolises of China, they are usually privileged. Because they don't have to pay off student loans like their peers in the US. And they no longer need to build their own home, let alone sign a building society loan agreement, as this has usually already been taken over by their grandparents, or at the latest by their parents. The condominium is almost a basic requirement for the man's family in order to get a good match. Millennials are the little emperors who are used to receiving large gifts of money in red envelopes on birthdays or Chinese holidays.

Nothing will change that quickly. From autumn the question will probably be: "Where's my iPhone 8?" Everything for love, of course.

Our columnist Frank Sieren has lived in Beijing for over 20 years.