After decades of egalitarian, restricted consumption, the residents of China’s cities are today surrounded by material comforts and awash in a level of commercial hype that was totally unimaginable just ten years ago. In this first in-depth treatment of the consumer revolution in China, fourteen leading scholars of Chinese culture and society explore the interpersonal consequences of rapid commercialization.
In the early 1980s Beijing’s communist leadership advocated decollectivization, foreign trade, and private entrepreneurship to jump-start a stagnant economy. It explicitly rejected any notion that economic reforms would lead to political change, but by the early 1990s its program had not only produced double-digit growth but also enabled ordinary citizens to nurture dreams and social networks that challenged official monopolies of power. Using participant observation, the authors in this book describe and analyze a wide range of these changing consumer practices, including luxury housing, white wedding gowns, greeting cards, McDonald’s, discos, premium cigarettes, and bowling.
Capitalism has brought urban Chinese both a higher material standard of living and new freedoms to create a private life beyond the control of the state. This important book offers rare insights into the world’s largest marketplace.