One of China's Leading Businesswomen Talks About the Changing Times.
Yue-Sai Kan was interviewed by Appeal, the Oetker Collection Magazine, for its Fall-Winter 2015 edition. She discusses with Appeal her insider perspective on China's rapidly changing culture and her global view of East-West Exchanges, as a fascinating window into our global contemporary times.
Q: You are a paragon for several generations of Chinese women in several business sectors. Today, in the 21st century, how are the values and out-looks of young Chinese people different from a few decades ago?
YSK: This is a society in rapid transition in every way, every day, the likes of which we’ll probably never witness again! The world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion people started with the lowest-possible economic basis. The sweeping changes that have occurred involve the physical look of the cities and countryside, the living conditions and habits of everyday lives, and even the relationships between women and men in the area of sex and morality. However, the biggest change I think is the way Chinese people look at themselves vis-à-vis the outside world. At the start of the reform by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese were not too sure of themselves – they felt terrible insecurity and inferiority due to poverty. But now they know they are financially secure, so they’re totally emboldened and ready to venture out into the world socially, culturally and entrepreneurially.
Q: How do you see the relationship between the East and the West evolving? What effort needs to be made on both sides for the relationship to improve?
YSK: There is nothing negative about cooperation between East and West. As China begins to understand the world better and participate more and more in world affairs as witnessed by the recent visit of the President Xi Jinping to the United States and to the United Nations, a lot of good things will emerge. I would like to quote Xi Jinping, who said:” the common interests between China and the US outweigh by far the differences.” We should have an attitude of open hearts and minds to form a synergy between East and West, to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Q: As the founder of the cosmetic brand Yue-Sai, which you sold to L’Oreal a decade later, you have influenced Chinese women’s perceptions of themselves and their approach to beauty whilst also setting an example as a pioneering entrepreneur. How has the way that women project themselves in society, and their role, changed since you founded Yue-Sai.
YSK: Clearly today’s Chinese women don’t want to be homogenised. They all want to show their individuality – far different from a couple of decades ago when I made all of China enter into a hot debate as to whether or not women should even look different from one another! In those days they all looked the same. Short butch cut or braided hair, blue or black clothes with threads, shapes and textures similar to each other. But the biggest change has to be with the young Chinese women. Today they dress and use cosmetics exactly the way Western women do. There’s no difference any more between attitudes towards beauty.