David Beckham may be able to tell President-elect Donald Trump a few things about China's economy.
He'll star at the November 11 Singles' Day online shopping bonanza hosted by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Last year's event attracted 91.2 billion yuan ($13.5 billion) of sales -- more than four times that of Cyber Monday in the U.S. That record is expected to be broken again this year, driven by younger and more affluent middle-class shoppers with tastes increasingly determined by international trends.
Katy Perry was originally meant to headline an hours-long gala to launch the country’s biggest online-shopping day of the year. But the "Firework" singer cancelled her appearance and publicly expressed her disappointment on Twitter about the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections. “Gonna cry my false eye lashes off,” the songstress wrote, appending an emoticon of the American flag.
And so Beckham, rather than Perry, will get a bird's eye view of rising consumerism in the world's second-biggest economy. It's a far cry from the trade cheating China stealing American jobs that candidate Trump painted in rust belt states.
Indeed, with global demand in the doldrums, China's economy has become increasingly dependent on its consumers, not its factories, to keep growth ticking. And it's not just local companies cashing in.
U.S. department store giant Macy's has an outlet on Alibaba's Tmall selling pillows, jackets, kitchenware and the like. Other overseas businesses without brick-and-mortar stores in China are also taking advantage, from German shower nozzle makers to retailers of Italian coffee and French wine.
To get the best deal, shoppers typically need to snap up selected items in the days before the spree actually kicks off on Thursday midnight Beijing time. Products with deep discounts will be gone in seconds.
This year, Alibaba wants to connect domestic and international buyers and sellers. It's also aiming to meld shopping and entertainment, to deepen engagement and ramp up sales.
Alibaba projects the number of China's high-end online shoppers will rise 25 percent each year to 61 million by 2020. That's a lot of spending power that President-elect Trump will have to weigh up when he decides how aggressively to press China on trade issues.
— With assistance by Xiaoqing Pi, and Miao Han