Avon has recruited an army of 300,000 Chinese, including many college students, to take its products straight to the masses. Amway says its Chinese sales force is 180,000 strong. Mary Kay declined to comment.

With the official approval, Avon, Amway and Mary Kay see a golden opportunity to tap the nation’s 1.3 billion people, with their surging incomes and strong social networks. Experts say China’s direct-sales market may be worth $50 billion a year.

“The Asian emphasis on family and personal relations makes [direct marketing] very suitable here,” said Wang Yi, a professor at Beijing Institute of Business Management. It’s also attractive for another reason: “It provides jobs for laid-off workers.”

Avon calls; China now answers – Los Angeles Times