Media Innovation Survey: Japan vs. China 2

Jul. 11, 2019
  • Viewpoints
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  • 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 second 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.

Click here for Part 1

A youth-led society accelerates new services

The third aspect to Chinese people’s interest in new products and services is the strong government leadership in China. China is a youth-led country, as seen in Hakuhodo Global HABIT data, which shows that about 60% of people in China (Shanghai) think that young people play a leading role in the world, while the figure for Japan is about 10% (Fig. 1).

With the support of the government, infrastructure is also relatively geared towards young people. For example, like Japan, China also has smart cards for public transport, and they became a topic of conversation two or three years ago for not allowing recharging using cash. Thus, the elderly also needed to install an app because they couldn’t charge their cards using cash. So, with the government taking up lots of new things, new services tend to penetrate readily. Also, I think there is a desire to be seen as a developed country.


Figure 1: I think it’s a young person’s world

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


In Japan, many elderly people are scared of smartphones. Is this not the case in China? Also, are there any services that teach elderly people how to use new services?

No, we don’t have that kind of service. Elderly people are often shown what to do by their adult children. The idea of being a full-time housewife is not a thing in China, so I think there are fewer gaps in the understanding of new services compared to in the past, because grown up children think they need to be in constant communication with their parents so parents and children exchange information with each other. In China, many people in their 60s use smartphones. Chinese people value interpersonal relationships; it’s a society in which people cannot get by on their own. In particular, those in their 60s used to work in state-run companies and live in dormitories with their colleagues when they were young, and the idea that you can’t live apart from the organization is ingrained. Even today, they still want to belong to organizations and communities through WeChat, social media and the like.

The popularization of electronic payment was triggered by convenience store campaigns. Alipay and others partnered with convenience stores, and conducted short-term campaigns with steep discounts, so the elderly took up the services with gusto. If you try to buy tickets for the Gaotie (mainland China’s high-speed rail service) at an actual ticket office, you’ll have to wait about an hour, so it’s much easier to buy them via an app or on the Internet.

That sounds like the smartphone payment app campaign in Japan carried out at the end of last year. However, if it takes an hour to buy a ticket, you’d definitely choose a quicker way of buying a ticket using a new service rather than sticking to cash.

Trust is important in China

The other day, a member of the Institute of Media Environment tried to go to the movies in China when he had some spare time, but he said that it cost him twice as much as people paying electronically, because he could only pay with cash. He lamented having to use cash because even though he wanted to use the e-payment service, he couldn’t register for it because you can’t use your passport for identification.

Few people want to pay for things with cash. I haven’t used cash for nearly two months either. There are a few things you need to pay for with cash, like car parking, but now it’s almost all electronic. However, I often hear people say that they pay for drinking parties in cash so that they don’t get caught by their families [laughs]. When I ask them, they say that cash is safe because there are no records. I often hear people saying that they had a row because they got found out for going out drinking by paying electronically. In China, it is fairly usual for couples to show each other their mobile phones. Their chat histories, payment histories, etc. There are even family accounts on Alipay, and there are also services that show couples what each other has spent.

How do they do that? Aren’t their phones locked?

First, they record each other’s fingerprints. I think that’s not unusual in China. They tell each other their PIN numbers, too. If you hide these, your partner will think you’re up to something.

Wow. In Japan, there are many who don’t like having their life connected to the Internet all the time, but in China do people actually welcome the opposite?

People don’t like surveillance cameras. They worry that their information is being collected.

Chinese people still value interpersonal relationships and make good use of them. If they go to the hospital, they will be seen last or not be able to get a hospital room if they don’t go with an introduction from an acquaintance. That means not just their own acquaintances, but also acquaintances of acquaintances. For instance, if you want to buy a car, you would first ask someone you know if you have any acquaintances working in the car industry.

People want information from people who can be trusted to some extent, such as acquaintances. That’s why people actively seek connections with others and help them out without a thought. Everyone looks on interpersonal relationships as an asset, so they make more friends, and they don’t hesitate to ask acquaintances of acquaintances for advice.

Drones replace cameras

So, the typical mindset in the two countries is quite different to begin with. Moving on, China ranked six VR/AR/drone-related items in their top 10. In particular, China is the only country to have two drone-related items in their top 10 (Fig. 2). The news reported Shanghai crab being delivered by drone, but how much have drones actually spread in China?


Figure 2: Ranking of drone-related items in each country


Drones are becoming popular, and seem to be replacing cameras. When people have a baby, they will buy a drone rather than a camera or video camera, and use it to shoot with when out with their child, at resorts, and when traveling abroad. Drones are often given as gifts at weddings and corporate year-end parties.

The Shanghai crab drone delivery was a campaign, and drone delivery has not yet become the norm. In China, labor costs are still low, so it is unclear whether it is necessary. I think that the e-commerce giant Jingdong ( and foreign companies are experimenting in China for introduction in their own countries. Jingdong is also developing an in-car delivery service with Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO that will see packages delivered to the trunks of customers’ parked cars. I think Amazon is doing the same. Cars come with cameras so it feels safe and the trunk can be used instead of a parcel delivery box.

NIO is the car brand known as the Tesla of China, right? Incidentally, in China, driving support services are concentrated below No. 50 in the rankings, with the exception of Relaxing in an unmanned/self-driving car (Fig. 3). It feels like there are no expectations around unmanned driving. Is there a reason for this?


Figure 3: Rankings of unmanned/self-driving items


There are two reasons. Firstly, people think it would be difficult to realize to begin with. In China, there are a lot of people and vehicles, so the hurdles are much higher than in other countries, and driving is also chaotic. In Japan, I think the distance between cars is a few meters, but in China it’s about 50 cm. If you leave more, other people will cut in, so you can’t leave more space than that [smiles wryly].

The other reason is that since ride hailing apps are so convenient, people don’t know if they actually need unmanned driving. The number of people who don’t need a car is increasing because they can just get their shopping delivered to them. China’s driving needs are lower than those of the United States to begin with. Also, even if you want a car in a Tier 1 city in China, you won’t be able to buy one right away. You have to win the license plate lottery first. The lottery is hugely popular, and some people wait four of five years for a license plate.

I see, so even without unmanned driving, it’s already convenient, so there’s no need for it. Is the number of people that actually have their shopping delivered increasing?

I think a lot use e-commerce, too. The people who actually go shopping are probably looking for a change of scenery after being at home too long. They need a reason for going out, which they don’t have, so they go to the supermarket.

Thank you for the very interesting discussion, Mr. Bao. It was very real learning that the need to use new services is born out of social issues.

Hakuhodo DY Media Partners Institute of Media Environment Summary

We learned the compelling and real state of affairs in China. As the Chinese proverb suggests, the idea of missing out if you don’t jump on a new service from the beginning has led to a high level of interest in new services in China. That the government is pushing a youth-led society was also of great interest. The reason why Japan and other developed countries are said to be mature is perhaps because life in these countries has become more convenient little by little over a long time, and they aim to create societies where people can live comfortably, without the need for major changes of course. It may be necessary to implement somewhat aggressive government policies in Japan in order to establish new services there as well, although as a country with an aging population, that may be difficult.

In addition, although things have become convenient through collaboration between individual services, I feel that trust is also an important keyword for cross-disciplinary cooperation. In China, trust between husband and wife and in interpersonal relationships was important, but I thought that the same might be true in the case of cooperation between companies and between services. I thought that not only improving the breadth of a single service or domain, but also creating horizontal connections between services and domains, and more easily approaching other entities with a view to collaborating, might create a more convenient society for Japanese sei-katsu-sha.

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 publication production.
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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