China falls to the yuppie style magazine revolution

'Trends Gentleman' is into cars, sports and aftershave, has no time for politics and is coy about sex, writes Teresa Poole in Peking
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The Independent Online
"Trends Gentleman" is 25 to 40 years old, earns at least 10 times the average salary and works for a foreign joint venture company or as a private entrepreneur. He is well educated, wants a good quality of life and has the opportunity to travel abroad. Oh yes, and he is a mainland Chinese.

Fresh on the news-stands in China is a magazine aimed at this upwardly mobile, style-conscious, affluent male. Judging by the launch issue of Trends Gentleman, he is thinking of buying a house, learning to dive ("Real leisure sports have always been the brave man's game"), eating Italian food in Sicily, and checking out the conference facilities in China's five star hotels.

His career is taking off, so he will want to read about what it takes to be the chief representative for a foreign company in China, and be briefed on the latest management strategies. As with men's style magazines around the world, cars, sport and celebrity interviews are staple fare. But Trends Gentleman also has feelings; the magazine's regular "psychological health" column addresses emotional challenges affecting Chinese men. One upcoming feature: "Do you have the courage to express your love to a girl before you know if she loves you?"

It is the first time that a general lifestyle magazine in China has explicitly been targeted at men. The editor, 29-year-old Yin Zhixian, says her models were GQ, Esquire and Men's Health - but only up to a point. "We cannot cover politics or sex. Our principle is 'Only talk about life, not politics,'" she says.

The bi-monthly, from the unlikely stable of the National Tourism Bureau, is a spin-off from a fashion and lifestyle magazine for women. International high status advertisers are more interested in reaching the male market because, regardless of Mao's dictum that "women hold up half the sky", young professional men in China have much higher disposable incomes than their female counterparts.

The modern Chinese man is not, as yet, renowned for his fashion sense, but Ms Yin is sure he is not a hopeless cause. A role model herself in grey trouser suit, gold-rimmed spectacles, styled hair and bright red lipstick, she explains: "In traditional Chinese culture, we stress that men should be intelligent without seeming so. Men thought it superficial to decorate themselves too much. But now they realise appearance is also important, especially when they deal with foreign busnessmen and see how they pay attention to their appearance. If Chinese men continue to be casual about their clothes, they will be laughed at and looked down upon."

At the back of the magazine, the "make-over" feature gives tips on smartening up. The first issue presents a modern hair cut and advises: "This style exposes the brow, showing to a full extent a gentleman's shrewdness and capability. It suits everyday work and negotiation with clients."

Ms Yin estimates readers' earnings at 3,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan a month (pounds 230 to pounds 760), which is what middle-ranking Chinese employees in foreign companies get. This is the generation which has ridden the wave of China's economic reforms. (By contrast, the average monthly Chinese urban wage is about pounds 40.) Companies advertising in the first issue include Nina Ricci men's fashion, Ermenegildo Zegna, Kenzo (parfums) and Omega watches. One article introduces the bespoke tailors, Gieves and Hawkes, "cherished in the court of Great Britain".

As with lifestyle magazines around the world, Trends Gentleman offers its readers considerable scope for wishful thinking. For those who have already bought their home, the interior design feature suggests spending 500,000 yuan on a full range of Italian wooden furniture. And flagged on the cover of the first issue is a four-page profile of Luo Zhongfu, 45, one of China's billionaires. He made his money as a furniture manufacturer and real estate developer.

Rich, yes; but is Mr Luo really a Trends Gentleman? More a Trends Warrior, perhaps. "In my life, I like to storm fortresses; enjoyment is not my goal," he declares.