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Dama: China's secret weapon

Photo: China Daily

The Chinese word “dama” (大妈) can be chosen as one of the buzzwords of the year 2013. It literally means “big mama.” Chinese dama invest in gold, bitcoins and overseas property markets; they entertain themselves by traveling and dancing in groups; they do the chores in their houses and hold the purse strings of their families; they even battle the elite class of the Wall Street… The word “dama” will probably be included in the Oxford English Dictionary and some foreign media describe dama as China’s secret weapon.

In fact, Chinese dama are not secret or mysterious. They are ordinary people, but they are closely linked to the country’s policies and economy. Understanding what the Chinese dama are doing is crucial to grasping the pulse of the Chinese economy.

Happy life with time and money

Some people say Chinese dama are a group of woman who live a happy life with plenty of free time and money. According to Phoenix TV (凤凰卫视), Chinese dama have even brought square dance to European cities. Although their noisy dance causes disturbance to local people, their energy and spirit is the envy of European middle-aged and old women.

Deeply influenced by traditional culture, Chinese dama worked hard and didn’t enjoy good life when they were young; they only tried their best to save money. Now their children have grown up. With retirement pensions, they have more free time and money to spend on their own life. They keep abreast of the times by chatting and buying things online, writing micro-blogs and reading gossip about celebrities. More importantly, whatever Chinese dama are doing, their husbands (daye,大爷) are behind them all the time.

Women with courage

Chinese dama purchased 300 tons of gold worth 100 billion yuan ($16.4 billion) in a blink on the Wall Street. The Wall Street Journal reported the stunning news by spelling out the Chinese word “dama” directly.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Land and Traffic, Chinese people bought 400,000 square meters of land in South Korea during the first quarter of 2013 and some travel agencies started special routes to Chejudo for tourists to see houses, with all the applicants being Chinese dama. Chinese dama had also got involved in trading bitcoins even before reporters made clear what the coins were. Meanwhile, many reporters doubted how much Chinese dama know about bitcoins and the risks involved.

Different from purchasing gold, investing in property overseas and buying bitcoins require more money and professional knowledge. Experts suggest Chinese dama should learn more about investment because their knowledge about the international capital market and related financial risks is still limited.

Information bearers

In fact, not all Chinese dama have that much money to invest in gold, bitcoins and overseas property. More often, what they buy is items of daily use, such as electronic products, clothes and health products. Once she discovers something, a Chinese dama doesn’t keep the information only to herself. She usually tells as many other dama as possible about what she’s found.

Auntie Xiao has been fascinated by the record player recently. “We have bought more than 10 record players for my friends this month,” she said. Auntie Xiao and other dama bought record players for square dance. In the beginning, only the dance teacher brought a record player. One was enough but Auntie Xiao said, “It’s good for each one of us to have a record player so that we can listen to it at home.” Then Auntie Xiao and some other dama went to the market and bought record players in groups at a lower price.

Chinese dama have many things to share every day so the markets for some products expand because of dama’s publicity power.

Cost Consciousness

Chinese dama are careful in spending money and pay special attention to cost performance.

Auntie Xiao’s record player doesn’t look fashionable. It doesn’t have as many functions, either. But dama of her age don’t go after well-known brands. A not-so-expensive record player which can play music is enough for them.

Chinese dama’s love for gold is not influenced by the warnings of risks issued by analysts. They don’t care whether the price will go up or come down after they buy it because they want to pass it down to their daughters or daughters-in-law. “Gold is forever gold, whether it appreciates or depreciates,” said Mrs. Yao, who bought some gold jewelry at a relatively higher price.

Dama also show their cautious attitude when they invest in overseas property markets. They saw a post on WeChat that 1 million yuan ($164,000) can buy much better houses abroad than in Beijing. It is not difficult to understand why they are purchasing houses overseas from the viewpoint of cost performance. Besides appreciation, they think their children or grandchildren may use the houses while studying or working abroad.

(Edited by Billie Feng)

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