As you may know, I did not get enough lifting done in China once I left Guangzhou, but when I did lift, I wasn't taking supplements. Here in the States, I usually take whey isolate after each workout, but in the Middle Kingdom I would just have a post workout meal. Whey protein supplements are not a necessity, especially for the average Joe that just wants to be fit and healthy, provided that they get all of their macros that they need to grow.
The primary deterrent that stopped me from using supplements when I was in China was the cost. In Hong Kong, GNC products were about twice as expensive as they are in the United States of America. In Mainland China, or at least in Guangzhou, the prices of supplements were about one-and-a-half times as expensive as they are in America, based on the assumption that whey protein with Yao Ming on the tub is the same quality as the stuff that I take in America. Since I couldn't read all of the ingredients, and didn't want to come out of pocket, I passed up on it. Sure, the American companies may be lying to us too, but I feel a bit more assured if I can at least read what should be in the product.
Having post-workout meals was a much cheaper alternative, and can be cheaper here in the States too, depending on the brand of supplements that one chooses to use, and the food that they choose to eat. The benefit of supplements for me is that they save time. Since I like to workout before work, it is a lot quicker for me to just make a protein shake and get going versus heating up or preparing a post-workout meal.
It is believed (at least in bro-science) that the human body can absorb whey protein quicker than it can absorb protein from foods. Personally, I have not noticed this, and I feel healthier eating food as compared to taking whey in powder form. I seem to make muscular gainz just as long as I lift, ingest some form of protein after I workout, make sure to eat throughout the day, and get proper rest. At the end of the day, just do what works best for your body and finances.