Mon, February 13, 2012
Lifestyle > Society > Valentine's Day 2012

Valentine's Day warms China, but love costs

2012-02-13 07:27:25 GMT2012-02-13 15:27:25(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- In the eastern city of Nanjing, Xiao Ning plans to spend one fifth of his monthly pay buying his girlfriend a bottle of Coco Chanel perfume to make her smile on the approaching Valentine's Day.

The perfume costs the 28-year-old employee of a foreign-funded enterprise over 1,000 yuan (about 158.9 U.S. dollars), more expensive than any present he has bought his lover in their two years together.

"If I fail to give her a gift that compares, either in price or brand, with what other girls around her receive on Valentine's Day, she will definitely be upset, even without saying it aloud," he says. "It is worth saving up to make her happy."

In Beijing, similarly, a paralegal named Yang Lei took a morning off several days ahead of the "important day" that falls on Feb. 14 to pick out a Swarovski necklace for his sweetheart. It cost 980 yuan, or a quarter of his monthly salary.

Though they have dated for more than three years, this will be the first time the couple get to spend Valentines's Day together in Beijing.

"We used to work in separate cities," 27-year-old Yang says, "so the upcoming Valentine's Day will be very special and worth celebrating."

Considering they both have to work on the day, Yang is thinking of seeing a movie together after work and presenting the necklace to his girlfriend over dinner. He used to mail chocolates or homemade albums to his lover in previous years for Valentine's Day as they work in separate cities then.

Chinese people, the young generation in particular, have grown accustomed to celebrating Valentine's Day, a festival that originated in the West, with a variety of love-laden goods such as jewelry, flowers, dinners, or movies, says Gu Jiang, an economics professor at Jiangsu province-based Nanjing University.

"A self-made keepsake, not necessarily costly, may be more expressive of love, but people nowadays can barely spare the time and energy for it, thus making room for fast-food-like and convenient commodities prepared by businesses," Gu notes.

The keeper of a flower shop in downtown Beijing, who asked to remain anonymous, tells Xinhua orders for roses on Valentine's Day have already surged over ten times the figure at other times of the year.

At another flower seller, in the northeastern city of Shenyang, shopkeeper Liu Linlin says, "A rose is priced at five yuan now, and 10 yuan on Valentine's Day."

Cinemas across the country are also prepared to reap in more on the big day. Five romantic movies have been, or will be, released for the occasion, including The Burma Conspiracy, a French movie that already won box-office success in France.

"The number of people going to the cinema on that day will surely increase even though it's a workday," predicts Yu Chao, deputy general manager of the Capital Cinema in Beijing.

Online retailers have also thought up marketing strategies to profit from Valentine's Day. Retail giants Taobao and Jingdong Mall launched a half-price promotion for love-themed gifts, including flowers, wine and chocolates, for example.

The practice of celebrating Valentine's day in various forms is in fact an attempt by many Chinese to pursue a quality life, and their greatly improved living conditions have enabled them to do so, Prof. Gu says.

But he is also concerned that a number of young people have been "kidnapped" by the practice, jumping on the bandwagon and spending in ways beyond their financial means.

Xie Ming, a 25-year-old doctorate student in the United States, has decided to surprise his girlfriend in southwest China's Chongqing municipality by flying back on Valentine's Day, and he has spent more than 7,000 yuan, almost his entire monthly budget, on a one-way air ticket.

"Extravagant spending has made Valentine's Day a burden for quite a few," Gu observes.

"Valentine's Day should be no more than a day for conveying love, but it may have become too commercialized to maintain its original essence," says Liu Qingzhu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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