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  1. 1. AdvertisemEducating Chinas "little emperors"( 2003-11-05 10:17) (Agencies)The first thing five-year-old Shi Youxun does when he gets home fromkindergarten every afternoon is switch on the computer. But he doesnt just sitthere playing games. Instead, he chooses from dozens of programs that teachhim about science, drill him on spelling, or test his math skills. And when Youxunisnt navigating with the mouse, hes busy memorizing Chinese poetry orpracticing his English. "We started him on the alphabet when he was one or twoyears old," boasts his grandfather.Shi Guojun, a retired Shanghai aviation worker with whom the boy lives duringthe week so his parents can work. "We want him to pick up two or three foreignlanguages, and then in the future we can let him focus on music and art."Shi Youxun is a typical product of Chinas new urban middle class. With fourgrandparents and two parents to care for him -- Youxun is an only child -- he is amember of what is known as a "one-mouth, six-pocket" family, a result of Chinasone-child policy initiated 24 years ago. The first group of single children,especially the boys, became known as "little emperors" for the attention andluxuries that were showered on them.In Chinas increasingly competitive society, parents these days are moreconcerned with their childs success in later life and are desperate to give Junioran early edge. "Todays moms and dads are looking for ways to get their kidsahead," says Christopher Mumford, chief operating officer of Beijing-basedBabyCare Ltd., which sells nutritional products aimed at infants and pregnantwomen. "They are looking to supplement a kids education starting from DayZero."KIDDIE CASHThats creating opportunities for companies peddling everything from healthsupplements to interactive English-language teaching software aimed at kids.
  2. 2. Although no one knows exactly how big this market is, foreign companiesare keen to sell to a potential customer base that grows by 22 millionnewborns every year.True, the majority of those babies are in the impoverished countryside, but whatthe cities lack in fecundity they more than make up for in purchasing power."Some parents are spending US$10,000 per year for kindergarten," marvels DulceLim, head of Asia-Pacific publishing at The Walt Disney Co. in Hong Kong. "Themarket has really evolved."Disney started out in China in 1994 with Mandarin versions of Mickey Mouse andDonald Duck comic books. A year later, it introduced childrens books. Today, withmore than 10 million comics and 2.7 million books sold, its moving full speed intoeducational products.Magic English, a US$225 Disney package that includes workbooks, flash cards,and 26 videodisks, has been "phenomenally successful" since it was introducedtwo years ago, Lim says. This summer, Disney launched interactive educationalCD-ROMs featuring the likes of Winnie the Pooh and 101 DalmationsCruellaDeVille. In April, Disney plans to start selling Baby Einstein, a series ofvideos that bombard infants and toddlers with images and classical music thatsupposedly make them more receptive to learning later on. Next year, Lim says,Disney China will license its characters to Emeryville [Calif.]-based LeapFrogEnterprises Inc. for use in interactive talking books that spell a word aloud when achild highlights it with a stylus.Disney isnt the only company looking to combine education with computertechnology in China.This year, Hong Kong-based VTech Holdings Ltd. started selling 16electronic-learning products -- including the Bright Buddies laptop forteaching preschoolers music, English, and math, and the Girl Fun PC, a purse-shaped notebook computer.Time Warner Inc. is testing the waters in Shanghai with an interactive languagecourse called English Time. The 200-lesson, 40-CD set takes as long as four yearsfor a child to complete. After successful debuts in Taiwan and Hong Kong, TimeWarner is expecting strong sales on the mainland -- despite the US$3,300 pricetag. "Surprisingly, in Shanghai people will pay that kind of money," says Trevor E.Lunn, Time Life Internationals managing director for Asia. "People underestimatethe purchasing power of the Chinese."Others are taking a more grass-roots approach. BabyCare sells its vitamins andsupplements to young mothers who attend direct-sales sessions. Key to thecompanys message is the role of prenatal and infant nutrition in a childs abilityto learn."I wasnt healthy during my pregnancy and was lacking parenting information,"says 24-year-old Wei Yen. She learned the importance of nutrition the hard way:Her son, now two years old, suffered from a series of illnesses until Wei enrolledin a three-day BabyCare course. There she learned, among other things, thatputting sugar in her babys formula -- something her mother insisted she do --
  3. 3. was nutritional folly. Now her son is healthy enough to attend day care, and Weimakes about US$400 per month peddling BabyCare products.The selling efforts of Wei and 5,000 others like her are paying off for BabyCare.The company, whose investors include the Templeton Private Equity fund, expectssales to hit US$10 million this year and US$20 million in 2004.One potentially lucrative set of products that has been slow to take off iseducational toys -- even though many of those that American kids play with aremade in Chinas Pearl River Delta.Chinese parents dont regard toys as anything, it seems, more than a means toamuse kids. Lane Nemeth, founder of Discovery Toys in Livermore, Calif., ischallenging that notion. So her company is selling items such as three-dimensional puzzles and plastic measuring cups that teach toddlers simple maththrough volumes."Theres a push in China toward math and science," says Nemeth. Meanwhile,mighty Mattel Inc., which has been selling its Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars inChina since 1999, still hasnt introduced its Fisher-Price line of preschool toys onthe mainland. In China, its still "Day One, Page One," says Executive Vice-President Bryan G. Stockton.CREATIVITY 101The marketing opportunities havent been lost on Hong Kong publisher Tom. Lastyear the company launched a mainland version of Mom Baby Magazine, whichprovides tips on pregnancy and child care from doctors and teachers."Parents only have one child, and they are very concerned, so this field is reallygrowing," says Lisa Wu, chairman of NongNongIntermedia Group, the Tomsubsidiary that publishes the magazine. With a circulation of 50,000, it isnt yetprofitable, though it has attracted a blue-chip roster of advertisers includingDisney, Johnson& Johnson, and Nestle.The reluctance of parents to focus on a childs artistic side makes it hard forcompanies that try to go beyond the three Rs. Hong Kong-based Kids Gallery hasopened a Beijing franchise offering after-school classes in arts and crafts.But only 30 of the 100 students enrolled come from Chinese mainland families --mainly those whose parents have traveled or lived abroad. The other 70 studentsare children of expatriates. "Creativity for Asian kids is seriously underdeveloped.Education is all about memorizing, rote learning, and passing exams," saysJoanna Hotung, founder of Kids Gallery. Even that emphasis, however, shouldkeep companies that help Chinese kids learn plenty busy in years to come.Print This Article E-mail--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- EMPERORS
  4. 4. Chinas only children--more than 100 million of them--make up the largest MeGeneration ever. And their appetites are big.By CLAY CHANDLEROctober 4, 2004(FORTUNE Magazine) – ITS BACK-TO-SCHOOL DAY FOR 3-YEAR-OLD FENG QIYI, AND thingsare off to a bumpy start. The bites inflicted by mosquitoes that feasted on him overnight have begunto itch. The smelly ointment smeared on him by his grandmother isnt helping. And now hisgrandmother and the family driver have deposited Qiyi at the Beijing Intelligence and CapabilityKindergarten, waved goodbye, and left him to fend for himself. "Children," asks the teacher, "doeseveryone remember the baby-chick dance we learned before vacation?" Qiyis classmates flap theirarms and sing. The best performers are invited to the front of the class and rewarded with candy.Qiyi isnt picked. "I have candies at home!" he blurts. "Many, many candies!"And so he does. As the only child in a well-to-do Beijing household that includes his father, hismother, and his mothers parents, Qiyi is used to getting plenty of candy, lavish praise fromgrownups, and pretty much anything else he wants. Indeed, nearly every aspect of Qiyis short,comfortable existence has reinforced the notion that he is the center of the universe. That may notbe the most rational view of the cosmos, but it is one shared by millions of other Chinese youngstersborn since 1980, the year Chinas social planners issued a sweeping edict limiting each family to justone child. Beijing touts the one-child policy for its success in reducing poverty and raising livingstandards. Government demographers credit it with preventing nearly 300 million births over the past25 years and lowering the average number of children per woman to two from more than six. But it iswidely lamented that the policy has had a nasty side effect: spawning a generation of selfish brats.More from FortuneFinancial stress index risesStarbucks climb isnt over yet3 reasons why the mortgage tax breakisnt a breakFORTUNE 500Current IssueSubscribe to FortuneThe Chinese have a special name for those tots: xiaohuangdi, or "little emperors." They are regularlydeplored in the state-run press. Chinas children are growing up "self-centered, narrow-minded, andincapable of accepting criticism," declared Yang Xiaosheng, editor of a prominent literary journal, ina recent interview in the Beijing Star Daily. Wang Ying, the director of Qiyis kindergarten, concurs:"Kids these days are spoiled rotten. They have no social skills. They expect instant gratification.Theyre attended to hand and foot by adults so protective that if the child as much as stumbles, thewhole family will curse the ground."The one-child policy has been loosely enforced in the countryside, where more than two-thirds ofChinas people live. In remote areas its not uncommon to find farm families with as many as five or
  5. 5. six children. But in cities one child per family remains the norm. Demographers estimate that ofChinese under age 25, at least 20%--about 100 million--have been raised in one-child households.Thats only a sliver of Chinas 1.3 billion people. But for foreign companies hoping to capture thehearts and minds of Chinese consumers, little emperors are a crucial market vanguard. Theyreconfident, cosmopolitan, and eager to try new things. And unlike their rural cousins, they have thefinancial wherewithal to gratify their whims. An April survey by Hill & Knowlton and Seventeenmagazine of 1,200 students at 64 universities in Beijing and Shanghai found that six in ten reportedspending more than $60 a month on "unessential items"--a staggering sum given that monthly percapita income in those cities averages less than $250. Many analysts predict that as theirpurchasing power increases, Chinas little emperors will emerge as a driving force of lifestyle andmarket trends beyond China--not only in Asia but in the U.S. and Europe as well. Says ConradPersons, a consumer-trends analyst at Ogilvy & Mather: "Get ready for the biggest Me Generationthe world has ever seen."The key to understanding this generation is to recognize that it is a breed apart. Everything isdifferent for these kids; the sibling dearth is just the start. Chinas little emperors and empresseshave come of age in an era of unprecedented prosperity. Their parents and grandparents enduredyears of famine under Maos disastrous communal agriculture policies and the chaos of the CulturalRevolution. They remember the trauma of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. But for the Chineseborn since 1980, thats ancient history. For youngsters in Beijing and Shanghai--and even second-tier cities such as Dalian, Chengdu, or Kunming--each passing week brings a gleaming newshopping complex, restaurant, highway, or residential development.And its not just that theyre better off. Theyre better informed. Although the state retains a firm gripon the media and has spent billions on technologies enabling police to snoop on Internet users,Chinese kids today know more about the world beyond the Middle Kingdom than any previousgeneration. They are avid techies, making ready use of mobile phones, the Internet, and electronicgizmos of every sort. They track the latest fashion fads in Tokyo, swoon over pop stars from HongKong and Taiwan, and watch Hollywood blockbusters on knockoff DVDs.Consider Wang Qi, a 19-year-old hip-hop music producer scouting for a new pair of Air Force 1sneakers at the Nike shop in Beijings trendy Xidan district. Wang--who prefers to be addressed byhis street name, "Jerzy King"--moved to Beijing three years ago from the coastal province ofShandong. A music school dropout who has never set foot outside China, he totes a mini-disc playerloaded with Eminem, Puff Daddy, and Fabolous. On this particular day hes looking phat in a blue-and-white fleece jacket bearing the logo of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Whered he get the getup? TheU.S., of course. He spotted the jacket and matching pants on, paid for themusing a Western Union credit card, and had them express-mailed to Beijing via the U.S. PostalService. At last count Wangs wardrobe included more than 100 jackets and jerseys. Using an Intel-powered computer he assembled himself, he spends hours each day tracking the latest hip-hopstyles over the Internet and does a brisk business importing and reselling American street wear(most of it originally manufactured in China) to Chinese friends.
  6. 6. Chinas little emperors are weaned on cheeseburgers from McDonalds, pizza from Pizza Hut, andfried chicken from KFC. Their enthusiasm for fast food is fattening their own bottoms as it fattensmultinationals bottom lines. In big cities one in five children under 18 suffers from obesity. Theweight-loss business is booming. At the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in Tianjin, a former militaryinstitution that launched Chinas first weight clinic in 1992, doctors treat 200 patients, most of themunder 25, with a daily regimen of acupuncture, exercise, and healthy food. Fifteen-year-old LiangChen reports proudly that he has lost 33 pounds in less than a month at Aimin. But he cant stopreminiscing wistfully about his regular visits to KFC. (Indeed, his favorite T-shirt is a souvenir fromChinas largest KFC store.) "I used to be able to eat an entire family-size bucket all by myself," herecalls. "Just one?" snorts his roommate, 14-year-old Li Xiang. "Thats nothing. I used to be able toeat four buckets--sometimes five, if I didnt eat the corncobs and bread."TV commercials starring Jay Chou, a pop heartthrob from Taiwan, have helped persuade millions ofmainland teens to drink Pepsi. Chinas urban youngsters are easily dazzled by fast food, flashyclothes, and the glitter of foreign lifestyles, says Yi Wei, author of Unbearable Happiness, a bookabout Chinese youth. "This is a fragile generation," Yi argues. "They grow up sheltered, without anyconcept of sacrifice or self-control." Among parents, the nearly universal complaint is that youngChinese havent learned to "eat bitterness," a common expression for enduring hardship.That criticism isnt entirely fair. Little emperors bear the weight of an entire familys expectations ontheir tiny shoulders. In todays China, urban middle-class children come under enormous pressure toexcel academically from as early as 5 or 6 years of age. Parents prod their offspring through agantlet of costly lessons: piano, English conversation, martial arts, even golf.Beijing insurance saleswoman LengYaqun has drawn up a daunting study schedule for her 13-year-old son, Bingyang, during his six-week summer vacation. It begins at 9:30 A.M. with an hour ofhomework assigned from school. Then comes an hour of extra math drills and an hour memorizingThe Analects of Confucius. After lunch theres an hour for penmanship and an hour for reading(among the titles she has assigned: a Chinese translation of Tony Robbinss Awaken the GiantWithin). The day wraps up with an hour for listening to recordings of classic texts in English,including Romeo and Juliet, Darwins The Origin of Species, and the lectures of Herbert Marcuse."I tell him, You are so lucky," says Leng. "When I was his age, we had nothing to study except thebasic school texts. But Bingyang can buy all kinds of books. He can take extra courses. He can get aprivate tutor and learn about anything he wants from the Internet."Bingyang does his best. But the Bard goes in one ear and out the other; he gave up on Robbinsafter the first few pages. "Too boring!" Hed just as soon use the computer to play videogames andthe break from school to pursue his real passion: assembling model cars. Many parents confess thatthey are pushing their kids so hard out of a desire to compensate for the opportunities they neverhad. But it is also true that advancing through Chinas educational system requires hours of drilling.The nations university system has places for only about half of those who apply. Chinese familiesspare no expense to help their children pull high test scores. Some rent air-conditioned hotel rooms
  7. 7. so that their little Einsteins can study in comfort before exams. And as they venture into theworkplace, new graduates are figuring out that their status as only children, combined with theinadequacy of Chinas public pension system, means that responsibility for caring for aginggrandparents and parents will fall to them. Chinas little emperors are "born into a kind of fairyland,"says Ellen Hou, a planner at the Shanghai office of global advertising giant TBWA. "But from themoment school starts, their lives become a struggle."At Qiyis kindergarten, one of Beijings best, the struggle starts early. Founded in 1996 by aprominent Chinese educator, the school takes up to 400 pupils each year, from 18 months to 6years. Tuition and other fees run $6,000, about double the income of the average Beijing household.In addition to instruction in math, science, art, Chinese language, and music, the school offerslessons in English, golf, and tennis. The school puts a premium on discipline, competition, andproper manners. To help young students grasp the virtues of self- denial, teachers offer them candyearly in the morning with the promise that theyll receive a second piece if they can refrain fromeating the first one before lunch. "By age 3, most students have learned to control their desires,"says Wang. That is also the age by which they are expected to be able to recite pi out to 100 digits.Some thrive in this sort of environment. The Intelligence and Capability Kindergartens star pupil is 5-year-old Ying Rudi, the son of Chinas most popular television host and sitcom director and thegrandson of a famous actor who was once the countrys Minister of Culture. Rudi began pianolessons at age 3 and is now a celebrated prodigy. A poster in the schools front hall congratulateshim for sweeping piano competitions this year in Beijing, Chicago, and Geneva.AT 13, XU QIUSHI is a hardened junior achiever. She, too, is an award-winning pianist--and aformidable competitor in Korean kickboxing. On a recent evening she mesmerized guests gatheredin the family living room with delicate renditions of Beethoven and Debussy, then--after a fewmouthfuls of fried chicken and a quick costume change--launched into a boisterous demonstration ofher head kicks. Xu hasnt the slightest doubt that she will be admitted to Beijings elite TsinghuaUniversity, and she is already contemplating postgraduate study in Paris. Her long-term goal is tobecome a diplomat--like her idol, piano-playing Bush security advisor Condoleezza Rice.Twenty-one-year-old Li Cheng, by contrast, just wanted off the academic treadmill. Li hails from along line of scholars. His mother and father are nuclear scientists, and his parents and grandparents,he says, "have more advanced degrees than you can count." Li has found his calling as a veejaywith the Chinese subsidiary of Rupert Murdochs Channel V. He says his family is appalled. But thepay is good, and there are other benefits. On a breezy evening in August, Lis career choice puts himbefore a crowd of 10,000 pumped-up fans at the Summer Shake, a raucous Channel V musicfestival on the outskirts of Shanghai. His appearance onstage, in a sleek tank top and straw fedora,provokes a wave of high-pitched squeals. Offstage he is mobbed by teenage girls begging for hisautograph.Rebellion has also proved a shrewd career move for Chun Shu, a 21-year-old high school dropoutwho shot to fame two years ago with Beijing Doll, a sexually explicit novel recounting her search for
  8. 8. love, truth, and the perfect punk band. Beijing Doll lambastes the education system for draining thepassion from Chinas youth and pours scorn on Chinese who came of age during the CulturalRevolution for their mindless preoccupation with academic achievement. Before being banned, thebook sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was embraced by disaffected students throughoutChina."Dont talk to me about how kids my age have more freedom," Chun rages, stubbing out a cigarettein a Beijing café. "The day China abolishes these stupid entrance exams, thats when you can talk tome about freedom." For all her invective against scholarship, Chun herself can be surprisinglycerebral. She has strong views about George Orwell, Henry Miller, and Chinas own Lu Xun. But sheis apt to lurch from a discussion of great books into a rant about the relative merits of Converse vs.Nike, or Courtney vs. Avril. "Does anyone in America believe Avril is a true punk?" she wants toknow. "The silky hair, the perfect skin, that little nose--real punks dont look like that."But Chun also confesses doubts about her own punk credentials. "I used to think of myself as a loverof music, literature, and ideas, who cared nothing for fashion or style," she wrote in a recent postingon, a popular Internet portal. But "rereading Beijing Doll today, I realize that, even morethan most girls, I have been obsessed with material things. I could spend money like water just tobuy a handbag with a fancy brand name. I am easily bewitched by television advertisements andcan be as vain as a peacock. Am I less able to debate the ideas of Dostoevsky because Im wearingbeautiful panties?"Chinas old guard doesnt begrudge Chun and other young rebels their choice of lingerie, as long aswhat they debate in it doesnt verge into topics that are really taboo--like whether they ought to havethe right to choose their political leaders. Authorities have taken solace in public opinion surveyssuggesting that Chinese born in the 1980s, fed a steady diet of patriotic propaganda in publicschools, profess more ardent devotion to their country than those born in the 1970s.And yet the spread of consumer culture is quietly subversive. The fundamental idea of communism,after all, is the subordination of the individual to the collective; consumerism presupposes thereverse. Gilbert Lee of Research International, a Beijing marketing consultancy, advises foreignfirms hoping to win over young consumers to play precisely to their yearning for self-expression,crafting messages that stress values of individuality, freedom, and physical attraction. Lee sees astark divergence in the preferences of Chinese consumers born before 1980, who are likelier to seekout products that help them arrange their lives in a more secure and orderly way, and those bornafter the one-child policy, who are looking to project themselves, establish their uniqueness, andmake a positive impression on others. In a society where children are indulged as infants and growaccustomed as adolescents to asserting their identity through spending decisions every day--what towear, what to eat, what music to listen to, what to drive--how much longer before some also beginclamoring for a say in other things: property rights, taxes, the quality of public services?ShenJie, a sociologist at Chinas Academy of Social Sciences, says that all the hand-wringing aboutlittle emperors is overdone. They havent gone soft, he argues, and arent about to foment revolution.
  9. 9. Like kids everywhere, he says, theyre just trying to find their way: "If you judge Chinese kids todayby the standards of yesterday, then sure, they come up short. They dont like to suffer. They arentused to eating bitterness. But so what? Is that the main thing China needs right now--more peoplewho are good at being miserable? These kids have other skills. Theyre creative and opinionated,and have the courage to do new things. Shouldnt that be grounds for hope?"