Media Innovation Survey: Japan vs. China 1

Jul. 9, 2019
  • Viewpoints
  • Research
  • HILL

This series of articles discusses results of the Hakuhodo DY Media Partners Institute of Media Environment’s “Media Innovation Survey 2018: 55 Services That Will Change People’s Lives,” which asked sei-katsu-sha in the four cities Tokyo, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Bangkok about emerging next-generation media environment-related services.

In the first part of this two-part article, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners Institute of Media Environment’s Maika Kobayashi asks Shanghai-based Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Shanghai (HILL Shanghai) Senior Researcher Xu Bao about the results for Shanghai, including a comparison of the results for China and Japan.

A desire to solve the social problems in China using technology

Mr. Bao, thank you for your time. Today, I would like to ask you about the degree of interest in the “55 Services That Will Change People’s Lives” that you asked respondents in each country about in Media Innovation Survey 2018 (Fig.1).

Comparing Japan and China, I feel that the items ranked in the top 10 are quite different. In Japan, VR x Medical diagnosis by a physician ranks high, but in China, the more specialized VR x Difficult surgery is ranked No. 1. No. 2 is Spending prediction and automatic transfer of funds, which received a low ranking in Japan. No. 3 is Drones to watch over elderly people and children. Among the four countries surveyed, China is the only one where drones appear twice in the top 10. How did you feel when you saw this ranking for the first time?


Figure 1: 55 Services That Will Change People’s Lives: Top 10 services in each country by degree of interest (Media Innovation Survey 2018)


First of all, I thought it was a true representation. In China, there is a desire to solve various social issues by applying technology to existing services. In particular, I think that the three areas of interest are medical care, care for the elderly, and education.

Firstly, with regard to medicine, there are few privately run clinics in China like there are in Japan, and most medical facilities are large general hospitals run by the state. What then happens is that with limited resources, the Tier 1 cities* are fine, but there are few good doctors in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. So, people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities go to hospitals in a Tier 1 city. This causes congestion in the hospitals, which cannot cope. Locals and others from provincial cities have become rivals, with locals unhappy that non-locals don’t visit a hospital in their own locality. They believe that this problem will be solved if remote surgery became possible.
* Tier 1 cities: large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou

Do Chinese people not go to the hospital with a cold or similar symptoms? Is this related to the cost of seeing a doctor? Also, I heard that medicines are delivered 24 hours a day. Do you not need a prescription like in Japan?

We don’t go to the hospital with a cold. With hospitals, you’ll wait 2–3 hours to see a doctor for just 3 minutes and then go home, so doctors probably see a huge number of patients every day. It doesn’t cost a lot to see the doctor if you’re insured. But many imported medications, such as cancer drugs, are not covered by insurance, so they can cost a lot, but I think time is the big issue. Drugs are not as strictly regulated as they are in Japan, so you can buy them without a prescription or medical certificate. In Japan, it is first necessary to see a doctor and get a prescription, but in China, that’s not necessary unless you’re seriously ill.

Chinese drugstores are linked to delivery services, so you can have drugs delivered from your nearest pharmacy via an app. Everyone uses this service when they have a fever, a stomachache or the like. I have had medicine delivered at night for my baby this way.

Chinese drugstores collaborate with delivery services. You can have drugs delivered from your nearest pharmacy using an app.

How convenient it must be to be able to have drugs delivered 24 hours a day without a prescription. In Japan, if you go to the hospital with a light cold, you might end up coming home with something you caught there. Restrictions in the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law (formerly the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law) may make it difficult, but it would be really convenient if we had a system for delivering drugs to your door when you’re feeling sick without the need to see a doctor.

Watching over the elderly and children is extremely important

Next, you mentioned that caregiving and nursing care for the elderly are social issues of great interest. What is the current situation?

Most people want to care for the elderly directly at their side, but in reality, a lot use new services such as remote cameras and GPS-enabled watches. Unlike in Japan, the one-child policy was in force in China for a long time, so one married couple has to look after four elderly people, and it is becoming difficult for them to do so on their own. It would be good to put them in a nursing home, but there are far from enough of those, insurance doesn’t apply, and the quality of the facilities is not very good. For example, high-quality diapers are made in Japan and expensive, so cheaper ones are used at nursing homes. Privately-run care facilities, which are said to be good quality, are appearing, but these are also expensive.

Are nuclear families common in China, or do people live with their parents?

In Shanghai, about 60% of people born in the 1980s live with their parents, and in provincial areas, I think the trend toward living with one’s parents is a bit higher. Since values have changed, parents tend to want to live with their adult children, but the children tend to want to live separately.

So, this leads to watching over the elderly. Is there a need for services that are one step short of nursing care?

There are actually elderly people who will forget their keys or get lost if they are not constantly monitored by remote camera. Additionally, with regard to children, there have been instances of kindergarten teachers bullying their charges where surveillance cameras were not installed. This became a social issue. So now many kindergartens install surveillance cameras, and parents can see what is going on via an app. The installation of surveillance cameras gives peace of mind, so it’s becoming normalized.

In Japan, many people install remote cameras because they want to see their children and pets when they are far away, but in China they do so for compelling problems. Perhaps interest in new services is so high in China because they directly relate to social issues.

You’ll get left behind if you don’t adopt new things

China is very interested in new services even if they’re not related to social issues. There are three aspects to this, and the first is the difference in sei-katsu-sha mindsets. Looking at data, 99% of people in China think that their future is bright. The figure for Japan is 60% (Fig. 2).


Figure 2: Image of my future: Bright (China, Japan)

Sources: Global HABIT 2017, Hakuhodo (China); Seikatsu Teiten 2018, Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (Japan)


The reason is that in the last two decades, China has developed considerably, with salaries rising every year and people’s lives improving continuously. So, people are increasingly interested in new things. Most think that their lives will not improve if they don’t adopt new things. This has happened since the economy has improved, so the trend has grown stronger in the last 20 years or so, in particular.

In addition, aside from products and services, people are continuously interested in new things in the world. Where previously it was a planned economy with only designated products and services available and not much choice, now people are able to get new things off the back of their own work, so it feels like everyone is working hard to buy the latest things.

There is a perception that the early bird catches the worm about stocks and real estate, too. If you enter the market before it matures, you can make a profit when it matures, but opportunities decrease gradually.

So, you’re saying that it’s not just stocks and real estate that people need to jump right on board with but new services, as well, because if they wait to see what happens, it will already be too late?

That’s right. In China we have a saying, “for the bold a feast, for the timid starvation,” or basically “he who dares wins,” so people try to always stay positive. As for real estate recently, if you didn’t buy five years ago, you wouldn’t be able to buy two or three years later due to price rises. It’s very real, right?

Next, the second aspect is companies. For example, up till a year or two ago, there were 20–30 ride hailing apps, and each company distributed discount coupons that made a 30-yuan fare 3–4 yuan. As a result, they became popular quickly, but it was not a business model for making money. Today, there are only two apps, including the best-known, DIDI; and one of the biggest bike sharing systems, MOBIKE, was acquired last year. This all happened in just one or two years.

Companies and managers just aim to increase the number of users, and then look for a buyer once they have built up a fanbase. What’s happening is that companies don’t think their service can make money, so they focus on finding and securing customers, and if things go well, some company will come and buy them out.

So, does the fact that stock and real estate is first come best dressed directly relate to No. 2, Spending prediction and automatic transfer of funds?

We already have a service like that in China, so I think it’s intuitive to people. Alipay’s Yuebao digital wallet pays interest if you just charge it with money. With regular investment services, there is a long term of between one month to one year, but with Yuebao, you can get interest for as little as three days. It also links with automatic salary deposits and everyone transfers their salaries to Alipay first, and if the balance exceeds a certain amount, it is transferred to their Yuebao account, so it’s quite easy for everyone to use. Chinese people have a high level of interest in investing, and there are many people who want to make money from investing rather than working. In extreme cases, the ideal life is to live off interest. In Japan, everyone wants to work until about sixty, right? Looking at the data (Fig. 3), Japan and China are exact opposites in that people in Japan want to work even at the age of 60, whereas people in China want to retire early. This shows that there is a strong sense that it would be good to have money come in without doing anything.


Figure 3: Ideal retirement age (China, Japan)

Sources: Global HABIT 2017, Hakuhodo (China); Seikatsu Teiten 2018, Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (Japan)


Does Alipay’s service make investing when you have a month with a bit of financial leeway automatic?

If you want to invest in Japan, you need to open an account and there are fees, so the hurdles are high. So, the advent of Alipay in that space lowers the hurdles in China.


Continues in Part 2


Xu Bao
Senior Researcher, Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Shanghai
After graduating from graduate school in Japan in 2013, Xu Bao returned to China and later joined Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Shanghai. His daily research activities center on the behavior and desires of sei-katsu-sha in China, where the social environment is changing dramatically. He is in charge of concept development, market research, and production of publications.
Maika Kobayashi
Senior Researcher, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners Institute of Media Environment
Maika Kobayashi joined Hakuhodo in 2004. After working in account service for clients in the toiletries, beverages, electronic money and newspaper industries, from 2010 she spent three and a half years at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living. In 2013, she returned to client service, where she was in charge of IR/MICE. She was seconded to the Consumer Affairs Agency as a Cabinet Office policy researcher in 2014. She has been in her current position since October 2018.
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