Asia Rising: 5 Eastern Trends Shaping the World

East to West and Back Again: A Shift in the World’s Economic Center of Gravity

The striking map below shows how the world’s economic “center of gravity” has shifted since AD 1. A “dizzying acceleration” (as described by The Guardian) took place from 2000 – 2010 when the center lunged back to Asia, reversing almost 2,000 years of steady movement west.


This eastward momentum illustrates the forthcoming “Asian Century” frequently discussed in books, the press and cultural conversations. While opinions about the particulars vary, experts agree that Asia will be the key region for global trade in next several decades.

Rapid urbanization and rising incomes mean increased purchasing power for Asian consumers. Further, there are more of these consumers than ever. The Brookings Institute estimates that 88% of the next 1 billion people to enter the global middle class will live in Asia, with 350 million to come from China alone. This large population with growing purchasing power will drive a significant portion of the world’s future economic growth.

Asia May Provide a Peek at the Future For Us All

A year into my move from North America to Asia, it is clear Asia’s economic growth will create two flows of goods and ideas. Undoubtedly, western products will pour IN (as they already are) to satisfy the needs and wants of a growing middle class. Alibaba, for example, recently said the company expects to import $200 billion in goods from 120 countries over the next 5 years.

Asian goods and ideas will also flow OUT, influencing the world in new and interesting ways. Over the past year, my frequent travels between LGA and PVG have given me a vantage point to see the ways Chinese culture in particular is shaping the West.

As aptly noted by PSFK, China provides the unique opportunity to peek into the “near-term future” of global business. Keep an eye on these five spheres of influence to see how they develop in 2019 and beyond…

1. New Approaches to Feeding the Planet

China’s middle class is increasingly health-conscious and interested in safer, more nutritious, more sustainable fare. Their growing purchasing power is fueling a search for new solutions. The country’s first food accelerator, Bits x Bites is exploring innovative ideas like authentic tasting lab-grown meat, alternative protein sources and “smart” versions of foods like white rice with lower, healthier glycemic indexes.


As part of the quest for health, ancient eastern medicinal foods, like Kombucha, are finding their way into mainstream cooking in China and abroad. Start-up Papp’s tea, for example, touts a “Tea Lab” with researchers devoted to designing functional tea blends to improve a wide range of health conditions.

China’s large and savvy group of online food shoppers provides a critical mass for models that have struggled to scale in the West. Meal-Kit Delivery Startup 321 Cooking delivers fresh, pre-packaged ready to cook ingredients to eager shoppers in China’s metro areas. And, digital innovations like facial recognition checkout, scan-and-go through WeChat, and free 1-hour delivery are de rigeur in the country’s grocery stores.

Few doubt that the future of growing, buying and preparing food will be tech-enabled. Asia, and China in particular, are at the forefront of this movement.

2. New Definitions of “Luxury”

In the West, luxury is most often defined by the physical retail experience. Think: elaborate stores, exquisite packaging, and a high level of personal customer service. In China, companies are being challenged to create luxury experiences for mobile-first shoppers who often prefer a digital environment, and this is driving novel solutions.


A few great examples include:

Gamified retail experiences like Dior’s online treasure hunt where players redeem points to purchase and unlock access to exclusive collections, Chanel’s beauty arcade pop-up created specifically to appeal in gamehall-crazy Hong Kong, and JD’s white glove delivery service, which sends smartly-dressed butlers in suits to deliver high-ticket items, immediately imparting status on their recipients.

Worldwide, the very definition of “luxury” is changing, and China is pushing that envelope.

3. Fusion of Physical and Digital Retail


Luxury isn’t the only area of disruption. China’s, young and mobile-first shoppers are inspiring innovation in mainstream retail as well.

Companies of all sizes are experimenting with corner stores transformed by digital apps and AI-personalization, self-service “box store” concepts, shoppable livestreams on social media, and robot-run restaurants – just to name a few.

The world over, the boundaries of physical and online are morphing to create a seamless, always-on retail experience. True, some of these innovations can be found in the West, but I agree with Forbes that China offers an unrivaled speed of innovation, scale, and variety of new retail formats.

4. A New Center For Tech Innovation

Chinese companies are no longer content with making components or cheap copies, and many are emerging as innovators in their own right. (See: my blog on the rise Shenzhen maker culture).


Asian tech companies, in particular, have made bold moves to claim a presence on the world’s stage. For the first time ever, the global Cannes Festival had an entire day devoted to China tech, where tech giants attended en masse to share an array of cutting-edge case studies.

And, Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, One Plus, and Huawei have recently introduced new products with splashy launches and flagship stores in global cities including London and NYC.


Increasingly, Chinese tech offerings are not iterative but bring wholly new innovations like 5G, sophisticated AI systems, and design inspired by collaboration with Western influences like Porsche.

Chinese cities are bustling with new ideas and tech-driven innovation, and I expect the pace will only increase in the year ahead.

5. New Ideas for the Global Culturescape

China will be the world’s most visited country by 2030, with the largest number of inbound and outbound travelers. As Chinese consumers circle the globe and receive international visitors, new ideas abound. A few great examples include language, celebrations, and shopping culture.


The “Chinglish” language is challenging conventions of common speech, creating new phrases and expressions. For example, the term “add Oil” the translation of a popular Chinese expression of encouragement, incitement or support was recently added to Webster’s Dictionary.

Eastern holidays like Chinese New Year are increasingly celebrated across the West, creating new cultural traditions, not to mention new consumption moments. This year, it was interesting to see U.S. companies launching their own Single’s Day sales with a uniquely American emphasis on self-care, and I look for the momentum around new shopping moments to continue.


Asia Adding to the Bricolage of Global Commerce

When I think of the new flows of ideas emanating from Asia – China in particular, I think of the word bricolage. This term was coined by social scientist Claude Lévi-Strauss to describe something new that is constructed from a diverse range of available things.

In that spirit of innovation, I am excited to think about what will be inspired by new infusions from Asian culture in the year ahead.



I’m Amy Chen, and I’m the CMO of PepsiCo’s Snacks business in China. A few weeks ago, I spent an incredible few days at the Cannes Lions “International Festival of Creativity”. ( The annual event – now in its 65th year – brings together thousands of marketers, agencies, and creative communicators from around the world to “learn, network, and celebrate.”

The festival features hundreds of panels and presentations, as well as tailored programs like the CMO Accelerator that I attended, all geared towards discussing and defining the future of creativity.


Here are a few of the biggest themes from the week:

1.     Social responsibility, purpose, and morality come to the fore. In the era of #MeToo, it’s no surprise that there was much grappling with gender inequality and the (lack of) diversity in the creative world. “Creativity needs diversity” became a rallying cry for a more diverse future, as well as an acknowledgement of the critical role that diversity plays in driving creative breakthroughs in the first place. There was a broader undercurrent as well this year about the responsibility of advertisers and businesses to create the world that we want to live in. It’s a good challenge for all of us to think about! “Goodvertising” became a term of art, and the “Change for Good” Hackathon ran throughout the week. The United Nations mobilized creative support for the Sustainable Development Goals and unveiled a new “Lion’s Share” program to protect wildlife. Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors shared the power of conviction in driving meaningful change. And Unilever’s Paul Polman, who was awarded the “Lion Heart” award, gave a clear and impassioned call to action: “poverty is not a sustainable business strategy for anyone”, he said, and “it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainable, purpose-led growth is the best way to meet the long-term needs of consumers and society.”


2.    From science vs. art to science and art – the ongoing (over-hyped) debate about data, technology, and creativity. I knew this would be a big topic when I saw the huge billboard at the entrance to the festival: “Remember when creatives didn’t ‘do’ data?” Once you turned the corner, you encountered a cheeky response: “Shift happens.” Speakers drummed up drama by debating whether data and technology would be the “downfall” or “savior” of creativity; one session even teased that it would “pit real-life audience members against the algorithms that run their lives”. By the end, I think most concluded that data and creativity is not an either/or, but rather a challenge of how to most effectively integrate the two. A number of companies shared how they’ve approached this question, with inspiring case studies of how artificial intelligence is accelerating creative productivity, data is revealing deeper consumer insights, and technology is charting new creative frontiers in health and even beauty.


3.    (Too) Big tech? Between Cambridge Analytica, fake news scandals, and privacy breaches, the “golden child” shine of the tech industry has dulled a bit. NYU professor Scott Galloway continued his crusade to “break up big tech”, and there did seem to be a palpable anxiety about the control and influence that these companies have on our lives as individuals and as a society. At the same time, most people I talked to seemed deeply conflicted on the matter. Think of it this way: even if you know it’s bad for competition and are frustrated that Alexa systematically biases search results to favor Amazon’s house brands, you’ll probably decide that Amazon Prime is just too convenient to stop using. And even if you’re uneasy that Google has a near monopoly on search, you’ll probably keep googling regardless. And if you’re Cannes Lion, you’ll have panels debating the virtues of big technology companies, but still award Google the coveted Marketer of the Year!

4.  China on the Rise. Tech giants Alibaba and Tencent (and KFC, JD, Huawei, and a raft of other Chinese companies) were at the festival en masse, anchoring a “China Day” program that sought to dispel any doubt about China’s ascendance on the world stage of creativity and innovation.


China was the only country to have a dedicated forum, and the speakers covered a dizzying array of leading edge case studies on everything from breakthroughs in omnichannel commerce and marketing to “superapps” like WeChat; the emergence of the world’s largest market for e-sports and electric cars; and creative ways that brands are preserving thousands of years of cultural heritage by making them fresh again for new generations. Martin Sorrell (founder of WPP) went so far as to declare that China’s imminent dominance was undebatable

5.   The more things change, the more they stay the same… Creativity and innovation will still win the day. There was a lot of (inside baseball) chatter about the changing nature of the creative industry: the shake-up at WPP, the entry of consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte into the creative space, the disruption caused by data and new technologies. But amidst all of this flux and chaos, my clearest takeaway from the festival was still the raw and tremendous power of creativity. Creativity inspires us, moves us to tears, makes us laugh, and allows us to believe that the future can be different than the present.