The road to recovery is both exhilarating and unsettling. Covid-19 has spared no nation but, as long as there is life, there is hope. In a sequel to our Cover Story two weeks ago on life in post-pandemic Seoul and Guangzhou, here is another dual-city outlook
Senior Digital + Marketing Director, Ermenegildo Zegna Greater China
“I have been living in China for 13 years, having transferred from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai to head the marketing team for Moët Hennessy Diageo China. In 2012, after 20 wonderful years in the wines and spirits industry, I embarked on a new adventure in fashion retail with Ermenegildo Zegna Greater China, the country’s market leader in international luxury menswear. I landed in China not knowing how to speak, read or write Mandarin. Although I am Chinese by ethnicity and speak Hokkien, and working in KL required knowledge of Cantonese, I am as Western as can be. I lived a large part of my life in England, New Zealand and Malaysia. If you had to rate it by proficiency, Chinese would be my third language! In short, I was completely unprepared for the ride on the bullet train that is China.
China is every marketeer’s dream. Everything is about scale and speed. You have to consider not just its sheer size and population, but also the diversity between its regions and cities. Every day is a perpetual race to the finish line. And while it is open to change, the Chinese also value heritage and craftsmanship greatly. If you are fast enough and get the concerto just right, you can influence and change customer perception rather quickly. This has much to do with the mindset of the Chinese people, who are hungry for progress; hungry to be recognised as equals and not be looked down upon. Not long ago, many thought this could be achieved through status and success, but that quickly evolved into the new rich seeking sophistication. This led to the Chinese soon possessing a level of discernment that would shame many much more developed countries today. The Chinese millennials and Gen Z have grown with such nationalistic pride as they try to rediscover their roots. The Chinese naturally possess great agility and have an openness towards change. They are brave in exploring the new, yet resilient in failure. In my 13 years here, I have been fortunate to witness this amazing evolution of the Chinese people.
Being first is not always the best as China discovered, after being the first country to be hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Other nations subsequently affected had the benefit of knowing what to expect, as China shared her struggles, challenges, findings and experiences. The government’s lockdown of Wuhan on Jan 23 led to an unimaginable level of confusion and speculation. No one knew much about this virus or what was going on, let alone what to do. New cases were popping up everywhere and social media was ablaze with frightening videos: hazmat-suited personnel reminiscent of the recent Pandemic documentary sealing off premises and residential compounds.
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