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China's richest person made billions this morning by celebrating single people

11th Nov 14 11:31 am

By 2030, China will be facing a situation where one in four men will never have married.

That’s according to political economist Nicholas Eberstadt, who wrote in an essay a few years back that “Beijing will have to determine how it will cope with a growing demographic of unmarried, underprivileged, and, quite possibly, deeply discontented young men”.

But one person’s crisis is another’s opportunity, so they say.

[By the way – like learning about languages? Check out the interesting note about the Chinese Mandarin characters for “crisis” and “opportunity” at the bottom of this article.*]

And businesses have spotted one heck of an opportunity in China’s mushrooming singles population.

Since the early nineties, growing numbers of Chinese singletons have celebrated “Singles’ Day” on November 11 – a kind of anti-Valentine’s, particularly popular among young people.

But the capitalist forces that be have transmogrified a movement that started among university students into an all-out commercial Armageddon that makes Cyber Monday look like your nan’s bake sale.

Last year, “eBay of China” Alibaba alone made $5.8bn on Singles’ Day.

The whole of the US only spent $2.29bn on Cyber Monday in 2013, its biggest online sales day (which falls the day after Thanksgiving).

Today looks set to be the biggest Singles’ Day yet for Alibaba.

Alibaba racked up $2bn of sales (£1.2bn) just in the first hour of the day.

Within 17 hours, Alibaba said it had hit just under $7bn.

Alibaba logoNo wonder the guy in the logo is so smug

Alibaba adopted Singles’ Day in 2009 to boost sales. This year, 27,000 brands are taking part on the site by offering discounts.

It’s all good news for Jack Ma, China’s recently-crowned richest person (pictured above).

He founded Alibaba in 1999, and floated it in September this year in a $25bn listing that was the biggest in US stock market history.

That gave Ma a personal wealth of $21.8bn, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Which is no doubt that bit higher since today’s cyber-buying frenzy.

*Remember that interesting Mandarin Chinese language note I talked about in the intro to this piece?

Simplified Chinese Mandarin character for

Simplified character for “crisis”

Here it is: you might have heard that the Chinese character for “crisis” is composed of the characters for “opportunity” and “danger”. John F Kennedy came up with a nice-sounding soundbite about it once, and motivational speakers have been invoking this neat little bit of inspiring etymology for entrepreneurs ever since.

But actually, it’s not really an accurate of how the character is composed, as this sinologist explains.


Now check out these videos of American shoppers going crazy on Black Friday 2013.



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