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Advertising and the Rise of the Chinese Middle Class

The Transnational China Project at Rice University

Speaking of marketing mavens….

Advertising in China used to be all political, but back then it was called “Propaganda”.

Now, however, with a “market economy” in place, some Chinese have increasingly more money, and those with something to sell want to get that money. How to go about it?

By advertising, of course.

From the Baker Institute’s Transnational China Project Update at Rice University:

Nowhere is the transformation of Chinese society more visible than in the marketization of public communication and advertising culture. Red forests of Coca Cola billboards have replaced “Red Oceans” of Maoist slogans. Propaganda organs have become advertising firms.

The Baker Institute at Rice University, as part of its Transnational China Project, has been investigating trends in advertising and “consumerism” in mainland China, and among the reports and statistics they have posted are photos of numerous outdoor advertising billboards and posters seen in China in recent years. As the images contained in this archive demonstrate, marketization and decentralization are producing new forms and styles of advertising culture in China today.

This archive of 247 digital images of 211 advertisements was created to provide visual referents for students and scholars trying to understand these important changes in Chinese consumerism and advertising culture. The archive comprises surveys of outdoor public service announcements and political advertisements on the major thoroughfares of eight of China’s major cities and tourist destinations: Shanghai and Beijing in 1997 and 1998; Chengdu (Sichuan Province) in 1999; Xian (Shanxi Province) and the Three Gorges Dam Project (Chongqing Municipality and Hubei Province) in 2000; and Chengde (Hebei Province), and Hangzhou and Shaoxing (Zhejiang Province) in 2002.

To begin viewing the hundreds of photos of advertising billboards in China, start on the the Institute’s Image Archive page. To include some reading (be forewarned: lots of reading) on the topic, check the project’s Home Page.

August 2003

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