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Young Chinese cut spending as economy dips

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Doris Fu imagined a different future for herself and her family. She imagined buying a new car and a bigger apartment, eating in nice restaurants on weekends and going to tropical Islands.

But today, the 39-year-old marketing professional from Shanghai is saving her money as much as she can.

Fu and many other Chinese in their twenties and thirties are concerned about China’s pandemic lockdowns, high youth unemployment rates and a weakening real estate market. As a result, young Chinese citizens focused on saving instead of spending.

This one economical way of life has been made more popular by social media. Social Media Influencers Share Their Money Savings tips and tricks.

However, this rise of cheap living could hurt the world’s second largest economy. Customer spending makes up more than half of China’s gross domestic product, or GDP.

Benjamin Cavender is director of the China Market Research Group. He said: “We’ve been mapping consumer behavior here for 16 years and in all that time it’s the most concerned I’ve seen young consumers.”

Unemployment among 16- to 24-year-olds is nearly 19 percent, according to government data. Some young people have been forced to make wage cuts. The average salary in 38 major Chinese cities fell by 1 percent in the first three months of this year. That information comes from the online job search company Zhilian Zhaopin.

As a result, some young people prefer to save money rather than spend it.

For example, Fu is a huge movie fan. She said she goes to the cinema twice a month to see a movie. But Fu said, “I didn’t go in to get a… cinema since the pandemic.”

Nearly 60 percent of people in China are now likely to save more rather than spend or invest more, according to the most recent study by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). Three years ago it was 45 percent.

That’s a problem for Chinese economic policymakers, who have long relied on consumer spending to boost economic growth.

A PBOC official said in July that as the pandemic subsides, the willingness to invest and consume will decline.stabilize and get up.”

The PBOC did not respond to requests from Reuters reporters for comment. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce also did not respond to requests for comment.

People rest on stone barricades in the street after the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, Sept. 9, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

People rest on stone barricades in the street after the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, Sept. 9, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

’10 Yuan Dinner’

After years of rising spending fueled by rising wages, online shopping and easy credit, young people are changing their spending habits. The changes bring them closer to the way of life of their parents’ generation, whose memories of tough economic times allowed them to save more money.

But unlike their parents, young Chinese are making a show of their frugal way of life online.

A woman in her twenties in the eastern city of Hangzhou has gained hundreds of thousands of followers by publishing more than 100 videos on how to make dinner for 10 yuan, about $1.45. The woman’s name is Lajiang on social media.

People on social media discuss money saving tips and even create contests. The ‘Live on 1,600 yuan a month’ challenge’ started among young people in Shanghai, one of the most expensive cities in China.

Yang Jun says she was deep in credit card debt before the pandemic. In 2019, she started a group called the Low Consumption Research Institute on the Douban networking site. The group has gained more than 150,000 members. Yang says she is cutting back and selling some of her assets on second-hand websites to make money. Yang also said she’s cut out her daily Starbucks coffee.

Fu, the marketing professional, said she changed her makeup brand from Givenchy to a Chinese brand called Florasis, which is about 60 percent cheaper.

Yang and Fu are not the only ones in China to give up such goods. Both Starbucks and the French dealer that owns Givenchy have reported sharp declines in sales in China in the most recent quarter.

Fu says she has postponed plans to sell her two small apartments for a larger apartment near a better school system for her son. She has also given up on her goal of buying a newer, nicer car.

“Why don’t I dare upgrade my house and my car, even if I have the money?’ said Fu. “Everything is unknown.”

I’m Ashley Thompson. And I’m John Russell.

That reports Reuters news agency. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learn English

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Words in this story

tropical – bn. of, pertaining to, occurring in or used in the tropics

focused – bn. giving attention and effort to a specific task or goal

economical – bn. careful about spending money or using things when you don’t have to

customer – n. someone who buys goods and services

tips – n. useful information

GDP – n. the total value of the goods and services produced by the people of a country in a year, excluding the value of income earned abroad

cinema – n. a cinema

stabilize – v. quickly stop changing, increase, get worse, etc.

upgrade – v. choose to have or use something more modern, useful, etc.

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