Consumption and Nationalism: China

Karl Gerth

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Consumption and Nationalism: China

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In China, the politicization of consumption at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century became a key way in which intellectuals and politicians defined, and the general population experienced, nationalism. In China and worldwide, consumption has served as a battleground in the creation of the modern nation. This article traces the changing manifestations of these historical connections between consumption and nationalism across modern Chinese history up to the present, focusing on the most conspicuous form of economic nationalism in the twentieth century, boycotts, as well as a newer form, brand nationalism. A more subtle mode of linking consumerism to nationalism in the early twentieth century was an interlocking set of nationalistic commodity spectacles that included modern imaged-based advertising, museums, department stores, and exhibitions, all of which articulated and propagated this link through a nationalistic visuality. China also showed an obsession with creating national brands, a consequence of which is the increasing standardization of brands across the nation, a foundational element of a national consciousness through consumerism.

Keywords: China; consumption; nationalism; economic nationalism; boycotts; brand nationalism; consumerism; commodity spectacles; advertising; brands

Article.  7311 words. 

Subjects: History ; Asian History

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