May 18, 2024

Westside People

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Chinese women cooperate with strangers to save money

Chinese women cooperate with strangers to save money
  • Written by Sylvia Chang
  • BBC Chinese, Hong Kong

Comment on the photo, Cathy Chu wants to save more money as China's economy slows

During the pandemic, Kathy Chu and her husband had to take a 50% pay cut. It was a huge blow because she also had to care for her mother who had been diagnosed with cancer five years earlier.

“We only had a little money left every year,” says the 36-year-old mother of two, who lives in Fujian, a city in southern China. “I felt insecure but didn’t know what to do.”

The shock to her family's finances led Zhou to join the trend of young Chinese people seeking partners – or da zi – with similar interests online. But instead of traveling or exercising together, she teamed up with people who wanted to save money.

The hashtag “Save Da Zi” first appeared on Xiaohongshu, the Chinese version of Instagram, in February 2023. It has attracted 1.7 million views so far, according to data analysis firm Newsrank. On Weibo, posts about so-called savings partners have been viewed millions of times.

Ms. Zhou feels fortunate to work in the clean energy sector, an expanding industry that is estimated to have contributed about 40% of the country's economic growth last year. However, she feels driven to “prepare for danger” as many of her friends and family are losing their jobs.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, In China, women usually manage ordinary household expenses

Ms Zhu says one member was tempted to buy a luxury bag costing 5,000 yuan ($690, £560) but after speaking with other women in the group she settled on a much cheaper second-hand bag.

She's surprised that so many other people are doing the same, and says she feels a sense of camaraderie with her partners who save. After just one month of collaborating with a partner, she says her spending dropped by 40%. She now aims to save 100,000 yuan this year.

Wen Zhong, a 30-year-old primary school teacher, says she has cut back on her online shopping with the help of her savings partners.

Instead, she now spends more time reading and knitting. She also began selling her handmade products in the local market, which earned her additional money. More importantly, Ms. Wynn says, this has helped her shift toward a minimalist lifestyle, which she values ​​most.

China already has one of the highest savings rates in the world. Official figures show that in 2023, the country's households put about 138 trillion yuan into the bank, up nearly 14% from the previous year.

But Dr. Lu says this high level of savings could pose a big problem for the Chinese government. Normally a country's central bank can help boost the economy by lowering interest rates because it makes saving less attractive. However, if people continue to avoid spending and save their money instead, this could weaken the bank's ability to influence the economy.

Comment on the photo, Ms Chen believes her family will need savings of at least five million yuan

Chen, 32, who runs a beauty salon in the central province of Henan and did not want to reveal her first name, says she withdraws most of her income from the bank every month and puts it in a fund. Once the amount reaches 50,000 yuan, she plans to return it to the bank as a fixed deposit.

“In the past, I didn't have any savings plan, but I still had some money,” she says. “Now, saving has become more difficult.”

To begin with, the economic slowdown in China meant that her beauty salon lost a large number of clients, and many of her regular clients reduced their spending. In addition, Ms. Chen and her husband are only two children, which means they have to take care of their elderly parents.

The couple also have two sons, and Ms. Chen is worried about saving enough to eventually buy them homes. In China, parents usually buy a house for their son when he gets married.

According to her estimate, Ms. Chen and her husband need savings of at least five million yuan. But she thinks this might not be enough because she is now pregnant again.

“Having cash in my hand makes me feel less anxious,” she says. “I feel safe and content when I see the piles of bills getting thicker and thicker.”