Shoppers at an imported goods store at the bonded port area of Qingdao, Shandong province. (Photo by Yu Fangping / For China Daily)
As usual, Zeng Quande's birthday party this year was full of foreign flavors, such as German beer, Russian wine and Belgium candy. The white-collar worker in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality had bought them at a local exhibition and trade center for branded commodities.
"Our generation has become accustomed to buying foreign products. The center is convenient for consumers," said Zeng, a bank clerk. The center Zeng visits frequently has 35,000 types of commodities imported from 40 countries and regions, through China-Europe container trains, ships and other means.
After 40 years of reform and opening-up, for Chinese citizens like Zeng, it is no longer a luxury to purchase foreign brands of food, wine, cosmetics, and smartphones, thanks to booming e-commerce, fast logistics, more imports and growing income.
Consumer spending contributed 76.2 percent to China's GDP growth last year, making it the largest driver of the country's economic growth for six years in a row.
And the trend is expected to continue with a slew of support measures ranging from individual income tax cuts and developing elderly and child care sectors to preferential policies on the purchase of new energy vehicles.
The country will use a combination of measures to increase urban and rural personal incomes, boost capacity for consumption and use multiple avenues to increase the supply of quality products and services, according to the Government Work Report delivered to the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on March 5.
To stimulate consumption of goods and services, big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have rolled out plans and policies to expand and upgrade commerce facilities, such as building more suburban boutique hotels and shopping malls, and hosting domestic and international expos.
Beijing will upgrade key shopping streets such as Wangfujing, boost fashion consumption and encourage the debut of global products in the city.
The city also plans to construct shopping centers near airports, and promote winter sports consumption along with the hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to the city's development and reform commission.
Shanghai will also build novel and world-class shopping streets and make the city a favorite choice for consumers to buy products from high-end brands, according to the business hub's action plan for boosting consumption from 2018 to 2020.
"With a domestic market and a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China has incomparable advantages in economic growth," said Chen Lifen, a researcher with the Ministry of Commerce.
Last year, retail sales, a main gauge of consumption, rose 9 percent from one year earlier, down from 10.2 percent in 2017. But sales of many kinds of quality products increased remarkably, a clear sign of consumption upgrade.
For instance, the retail sales share of smart washing machines expanded 39.8 percent last year, according to the National Household Appliance Industry Information Center.
Consumption and industrial upgrades have become the new driver of growth in the home appliance sector, said Song Jingxue, research head at the center.
Among this year's main projected targets, the government aims to create over 11 million new urban jobs and ensures personal income growth is basically in step with economic growth. The government will adopt an employment-first policy this year.
"A lot of jobs are offered, but some posts demand work experience. So there are both opportunities and challenges," said Ji Yongxiang, a graduate in accounting from Hebei Agricultural University, at a job fair in Cangzhou, a coastal city of Hebei province.