Culture Made In China

Aric Chen writing for Fast Company looks at the emergence of China’s creative class.

China is building a creative infrastructure at breakneck speed. You can sense it in the trendy restaurants and slick boutiques popping up in major cities–and in the gritty ex-warehouse and factory districts where imagination-driven companies are joining the cafés and art galleries that first settled in. Newsstands are brimming with glossies such as Vision, Urban, and Modern Weekly that, joined by online counterparts like Coldtea, feature international trends alongside promising local talents. China’s answers to YouTube (Tudou and Yoqoo) and social-networking sites (Douban)–along with an estimated 34 million (and skyrocketing) blogs–are bringing in digital reinforcements on a national scale.
Combine all of that with a counterdiaspora and reverse brain drain of talent, and the overall result is a kind of primordial soup thick with the building blocks of creative enterprise. Emerging from it is an army–small, but growing–that’s working to reinvent how China thinks and works.
“The most interesting work is coming from advertising, PR, and marketing, because they have the money,” says Shaway Yeh, the editorial director of the Shanghai-based publication Modern Weekly. Pulling out a boxed set of 13 books, sponsored by Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII cognac, she flips through a tour de force of sophisticated layouts, pull-out postcards, origami-like pages, and photographs that can be rearranged as in a scrapbook. Each book pays homage to one of China’s cultural movers and shakers; all are the work of Les Suen, a 31-year-old Shanghai design whiz.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.