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Claire Zhang

Infographic: Are China’s ‘Losers’ Really Winning?

Diaosi” originated as an insult for a poor, unattractive young person who stayed at home all day playing video games, with dim prospects for the future – a “loser.” Yet as the term went viral on the Internet, Chinese youth from all backgrounds began to embrace it. It has become a self-deprecating counter to the “gaofushuai,” or the “tall-rich-handsome,” those with status, success, and bright futures. The number of people who refer to themselves as diaosi has continued to grow, and it is slowly transforming into a descriptor of the ordinary Chinese citizen who faces everyday struggles and hardships.

This infographic, created by Sohu Business and translated with permission by Tea Leaf Nation and ChinaFile’s David M. Barreda, posits that the time of the sought-after high-end Chinese consumer, drawn to high-end brands and other symbols of status, may be ending. In their place, the diaosi are poised to become the mainstream consumers in China. It also hints at a future turning point: China’s underdogs just may become the country’s mainstream.


Diaosi title slide

Ever since GDP growth dropped to 7.8% in 2012, the Chinese economy hasn’t been quite as robust. Affected by the economic environment, China’s luxury goods consumption has substantially declined, giving businesspeople a big headache.

Mainland China’s New Year luxury goods spending sliding downwards

Chinese New Year luxury goods spending

Diaosi luxury goods spending

At the same time, due to increasing public pressure and anti-corruption efforts, once fashionable brand-name watches also became the downfall of many government officials.

Diaosi high-end products

Diaosi, the unexpected answer

Diaosi professions

We’ve heard that the diaosi’s main profession is “moving bricks” [slang for playing video games], but this doesn’t seem to be the real situation…

Survey of diaosi industry distribution

Survey of Diaosi Industry Distribution

Programmers and media industry workers had the highest percentage of self-identified diaosi, but only fewer than 10% of civil servants self-identified as diaosi.

Diaosi age group

Diaosi, age distribution

age

The diaosi identity is strongest in the 30 to 39 year-olds, with more than 80% identifying as such.

Diaosi assets

Diaosi assets

The emotional state of diaosi

Diaosi emotional state

So, if you encounter a no-car, no-home, no-girlfriend, over 20, almost 30-year-old media worker or programmer, make no mistake – he is a so-called diaosi.

How much purchasing power does the diaosi group have?

Different incomes affect the degree of diaosi self-identification

Diaosi purchasing power

In fact, survey respondents with incomes of 6,001-8,000 RMB for men and 3,001-6,000 RMB for women most identified with diaosi. Beijing residents’ per capita disposable income is only 3,039 RMB, suggesting that the large majority of self-identified diaosi actually have incomes higher than the average income level of society. In addition, they do not need to care for cars or homes.

Survey of diaosi consumer attitudes

Diaosi consumer attituted

In consumer attitudes, diaosi value quality and fashion the most, while only fewer than 10% value necessities, suggesting that though everyone identifies as diaosi, they still want to pursue a high quality of life.

Then what are the diaosis’ biggest demands?

Survey of diaosi night activities

Diaosi night activities

Diaosi gamer comparisons

Diaosi gamer comparisons

At the same time, diaosi really like to lounge around at home. At night they tend to stay home and use the Internet, and they especially love to play games. Thus, socializing is diaosis’ biggest shortcoming and also their greatest demand.

Diaosi unmarried

The survey demonstrates that only one third of single diaosi have a significant other, or, on average only one in three males have a girlfriend. Additionally, the majority of diaosi are between 20-30 years old, the prime period for dating. Thus, socializing is truly the diaosi’s greatest demand.

Diaosi seeking social contact

In conclusion: those who identify as part of the diaosi subculture have gradually become a unique consumer group. They have strong purchasing power and rational consumption attitudes. The concept of pursuing the “high-end, powerful, and upscale” is already past; now we must direct our attention toward the diaosi concepts of “quality, thoughtfulness, and creativity.” The diaosi could become the future mainstream consumers, inevitably giving rise to new business opportunities.

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Claire Zhang

Claire Zhang is a Chinese-American English major at Yale University, where she writes for a number of publications.
  • Paul Schoe

    Even though Diaosi might become “the country’s mainstream“, and around me I see confirmation of the demographics that are given here, I feel that it is still considered a very negative term. Self-identifying as a ‘Diaosi’ indicates a deep dissatisfaction with their current life situation, often combined with no real vision for future improvement.

    I am surprised that in the ‘consumer attitude’ there is no area for ‘savings for a house’. It almost seems to indicate a preference for ‘luxury items and fashion‘ instead of building towards a future. Unless they feel that the future will only get better, to me it looks more like giving up on that future.

    The disperancy between the costs of what they want (house, marriage, family) and what they have (low income with limited control over career opportunities) has become such that they now almost proudly self-identify as ‘Diaosi’. Not a very optimistic trend.

    • Jessica

      I agree with your points Paul. Aspirations for success – however that success is interpreted, are the long-standing golden rule to the Chinese wherever they are. The emergence of Diaosi and most importantly the recognition of their existence is inevitable given the social media environment and the fast-changing economic structure in China, and it is indeed a positive thing.

      Identifying oneself as a Diaosi is a bit of a sad emotional state but this may not necessarily reflect their true behaviour. Saving is indeed an important behaviour that has not been touched on here.

      I am not sure if Diaosi is the answer to the decline of foreign brands sales performance – whereas the rich used to buy Swiss watches or Burberry bags liberally for themselves, their family and as business and social gifts on a monthly basis, the Diaosi will spend 6 months to save up for one of these items. The number of Diaosis is significant, but I am not sure if their spending power and behaviour can easily make up for the drop in the sales from the rich. Will they?

      • Paul Schoe

        Due to their numbers, I think that their spending power can make up for the drop of the sales from the rich on the expensive foreign brands that you mention.
        But as far as I am concerned, I hope that their behaviour will result in wiser decisions and that they spread their money over more affordable items so that they can do more with their hard earned money then just spend it on one or two expensive brand products. ;-)

  • Bob Newman

    So corrupt 公务员 think they’re actually tall and “physically attractive” because they can siphon off public funds and earn kickbacks? That’s a riot. I really like how the manufacturing workers were not actually surveyed. I mean, it’s only 100 million jobs. China has 300 million farmers. What about them? Shouldn’t they all be 110% 屌丝?

    This study, as lacking as it may be, does provide one important indication. The sample pool surveyed are mostly “privileged” people, at least in comparison to the Chinese lower class, which is most people since we’re dealing with a bell curve with extreme positive skewness and a Gini coefficient arguably over 0.6. When even these people are disgruntled, who on God’s earth is actually satisfied with the current state of affairs? Right, of course, the 公务员, otherwise known as the largest mafia organization on the planet. Unfortunately, they’re only 40 million people, not to mention especially top-heavy in terms of benefits distribution (起码要到厅长才能捞钱). Better take off those shades, because the future isn’t bright.