In order to capitalise on China’s “pink economy”, the Chinese government should work in tandem with businesses to promote an inclusive and open business environment. This will also incentivise international companies to invest in China and tap into its massive “pink economy.”

Read Part 1 of this series here

In 2020, Chinese company BlueCity Group — the developer of Blued, the largest gay social networking and livestreaming app in the world with over 54 million users worldwide — became the first LGBTQ+-focused social networking company to be listed on the Nasdaq stock market. This landmark event not only exemplifies the economic prowess of the “pink economy,” driven by the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community but also underscores its ability to enhance visibility and social recognition in China. However, the success of Blued, while indicative of the commercial potential within the LGBTQ+ sphere, has not automatically translated into elevated political influence or improved legal rights. The resignation of Blued's CEO, Ma Baoli, in 2022, amid heightened government restrictions on LGBTQ+ content and increased regulations on internet platforms, underscores the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ businesses in navigating a complex regulatory environment. 

Despite these governmental curbs and prevailing societal prejudices, the power and presence of China’s “pink economy” cannot be underestimated and must be acknowledged by the Party-state for it to be utilised to its full potential. 

Understanding the “pink economy and the economic might of China’s LGBTQ+ community

According to a survey, the estimated LGBT population in mainland China was around 74.7 million with a purchasing power of $636 billion in 2018. This purchasing power constitutes the ‘“pink economy” or more specifically, “pink yuan” in China: it encompasses the economic activities generated by the LGBTQ+ community, which includes consumption patterns, lifestyle choices, and business ventures. The LGBTQ+ community in China constitutes a significant chunk of the economy but this market has been marginalised and neglected when it comes to trade, businesses and services catering to their consumer demands that differ from heterosexuals; this unmet consumer demand is what forms the foundation for the China’s “pink economy”. 

It was in the 2010s that Chinese businesses started taking note of the potential of the “pink economy” and began employing marketing and advertising strategies and business models aimed towards the queer Chinese community. In 2015, for instance, Taobao, a Chinese e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba Group, partnered with LGBTQ+-centric NGOs such as Beijing LGBT Center and PFLAG China offering contest winners a week-long wedding and honeymoon package in Los Angeles. Not only did this help raise awareness and visibility about homosexuality in China, but it also led to businesses realising the economic advantages attached to catering to the wants and needs of the queer community. 

The Chinese LGBTQ+ community makes for a highly profitable consumer market —a 2010 survey revealed that LGBTQ+ consumers have three times the purchasing power of their heterosexual counterparts in China. However, this is more pronounced for the affluent section of the LGBTQ+ community who have comparatively higher disposable incomes than their heterosexual counterparts and not a characteristic of the entire LGBTQ+ community, since the Chinese queer community is incredibly diverse and intersectional. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ customers showcase strong loyalty towards LGBTQ+-inclusive companies, businesses and brands. Businesses are slowly but surely diversifying their services and goods in order to target LGBTQ+ people, with many hoping that this economic might will help promote gay rights in China as well. As more Chinese companies pay heed to the valuation of “pink economics”, it is equally important for the status of the queer community in China to be elevated. While the economic impact of China's “pink economy” is undeniably significant, navigating through several persisting challenges remains a crucial task for businesses. In this context, brands and companies have to employ innovative strategies to effectively target China's queer community and meet their needs and demands.

The way forward 

Much of the potential of Beijing’s “pink economy” is still untapped. Government controls pose the biggest hindrance in the blossoming of LGBTQ+-inclusive commerce and culture. A set of new guidelines in 2017 bracketed LGBTQ+ content along the lines of incest, sexual assault and abuse as promoting the “performance and display of abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours” and exaggerating “obscenity” and vulgarity. Due to government controls and censorship on advertising and marketing, businesses catering to the queer community are largely confined to word-of-mouth promotion. Mainstream Chinese companies have to navigate through state power and control, as well as social stigma and prevalent sociocultural norms in order to market their products to queer people in China. 

Although corporate solidarity is important and helps increase visibility for such minority communities which desperately seek it, mere solidarity amounts to tokenism and this visibility does not necessarily translate into the enhancement of gay rights. Instead, this must be complemented with inclusive hiring policies for the LGBTQ+ community as well as active support in ensuring safe spaces for them. Furthermore, businesses need to be representative of all sections of the queer community, especially those who are underrepresented —while gender performativity is linked to material culture, being queer ultimately goes beyond being a mere lifestyle choice. In order to do this, businesses should support China-focused research initiatives and data collection efforts to better understand the diverse needs and preferences of the LGBTQ+ community. Not only can this guide businesses in tailoring their products and services effectively, but it will also lead to more visibility for the non-urban non-affluent queer (largely closeted) community in China.

In order to capitalise on China’s “pink economy”, the Chinese government should work in tandem with businesses to promote an inclusive and open business environment. This will also incentivise international companies to invest in China and tap into its massive “pink economy.” Furthermore, clear legal frameworks can provide a supportive environment for businesses to operate without fear of legal repercussions. The symbiotic relationship between economic prosperity and embracing diversity cannot be undervalued. In this case, a holistic approach that combines legal, social, and economic strategies will not only unlock the full potential of China's "pink economy" but also contribute towards Xi Jinping’s dream of national rejuvenation and the achievement of China’s second centennial goal of becoming a “modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, and harmonious” by 2049.


Read Part 3 of this series here.


Ahana Roy is Research Associate and Chief Operations Officer at Organisation for Research on China and Asia (ORCA). She is a postgraduate in Political Science with International Relations from Jadavpur University. Her areas of interest include non-traditional security studies with a focus on gender and sexuality studies, society, and culture in China specifically and East Asia broadly. She can be reached on Twitter @ahanaworks and her email

Subscribe now to our newsletter !

Get a daily dose of local and national news from China, top trends in Chinese social media and what it means for India and the region at large.

Please enter your name.
Looks good.
Please enter a valid email address.
Looks good.
Please accept the terms to continue.