Luxury in China

China’s mall-and-theme-parks tycoon outlines plan to set up tourism, sports complex in Jinan

Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin calls on government to cut import taxes, impose heavy fines on China’s bootleg products, and run a campaign to improve the image of Chinese brands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 5:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 11:09pm

Wang Jianlin, who built his US$33.3 billion fortune through malls, theme parks, hotels and cinemas, said on Friday that Wanda Group would invest 63 billion yuan (HK$73.2 billion) to set up a tourism and sports complex in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.

The project, spread over 5.3 million square metres of floor area, will have malls, sports facilities, hotels and a theme park. Wanda will also build 20 entertainment theme park complexes in China to keep more Chinese tourists at home, Wang said.

Chinese tourists are expected to be the largest group of travellers in the world this year, with 64 million people already crossing the country’s border during the first six months, according to data provided by the China Outbound Tourism Institute.

The country’s shoppers spent as much as 1.5 trillion yuan (HK$1.74 trillion) abroad last year, half of that going toward shopping, according to China’s commerce minister Gao Hucheng. By Wang’s estimates, the tab could be as high as 2.5 trillion yuan. If only 30 per cent of that amount can be kept at home, that’s enough to bolster the country’s economic growth, he said.

“Overseas consumption expanded at a much faster pace than domestic consumption in recent years,” Wang said during a conference in Beijing on Thursday to promote his company’s e-commerce platform Feifan.

Chinese consumers like overseas brands and services because they’re cheaper, frequently better made, and adhere to higher safety standards, Wang said.

A spate of product safety problems in China – from melamine-laced milk to excessive amounts of chemicals in consumer products and foodstuff – has eroded the confidence about locally made products, he said.

The growth of e-commerce by services such as Amazon, Alibaba’s Taobao, TMall and Wanda’s own Feifan have made foreign products easily available to Chinese consumers at the click of a computer mouse. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Amid this trend, Chinese shoppers are increasing their spending on health-care services in Japan and South Korea.

“The consumption patten is shifting from luxury shopping to daily consumer products shopping, from buying goods to buying service such as health-care,” Wang said. “The phenomenon deserves careful study.”

To keep Chinese shoppers at home, the government should impose a package of punitive measures on the proliferation of bootleg and substandard products in China, with a campaign to improve the image of Chinese brands, he said.

While he was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a policy advisory body to the Chinese government, Wang had proposed to cut the import tariffs on luxury products. The proposal, however, got a cold shoulder from the trade ministry.