MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

No cultural revolution? Continuity and change in consumption patterns in contemporary China

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


One globalization paradigm argues that developing countries will increasingly resemble Western societies. Although influenced by Western trends, I argue that global consumerism will not make most Chinese abandon traditional values and adopt a different and totally Western consumer culture. This article, which is based on empirical evidence, stresses the role of culture and how it affects people’s strategies toward economic decision-making. I explore the changing values before and after the opening up policy, and how they influenced consumption patterns in different eras. The Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) in China was a campaign designed to pursue a purer form of communism and led to a distinctive set of cultural values and ideologies, resulting in unique consumption patterns. "Status goods" during this period were based on a person’s "revolutionary background" and loyalty to Chairman Mao, rather than on individual consumption preferences. After the opening up policy, consumer behavior moved closer to the patterns found in Western capitalist societies, but the mechanisms that drive this consumption are quite different. Chinese traditional values were challenged but did not disappear, and the impact of the Cultural Revolution also had a profound influence on those who lived through it. Contemporary Chinese consumers selectively choose certain cultural values from a range of options in order to legitimize their spending decisions.