Shopping in China

02 Jan 2007|Cynthia Chan

Shopping has always been a public experience in China. Traditionally, it involved colorful, open-air markets with fresh meat, produce, and wares for customers who had to bargain hard. The decades under Mao’s Communism saw dreary stores providing few choices, and clerks with no incentive to sell. But all that has changed in recent years. According to retail analysts, in the last six years more than 400 large malls have been built in China. Within two or three years, China will be home to seven of the ten largest shopping malls in the world.

These new malls offer more comprehensive shopping environments that usually include entertainment complexes and restaurants as well. They offer customers more selection, more opportunity for comparison shopping, easy exposure to what’s new both from window shopping and people watching, and more opportunity to be seen. As such, the shopping mall is quickly becoming a new social arena in which a young Chinese girl or boy can experiment with his or her identity. For millions of young Chinese, these malls represent the perfect meeting spot. They are not politically controlled, so youngsters feel freer to experiment with new looks or behaviors that might push acceptable limits. In a sense, the malls offer the first true public life in China in many years.

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