Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Differences and Integration of Consumer Cultures between China and Western Countries and Their Impact on the Recovery of Ethnic and Rural Areas

Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Differences and Integration of Consumer Cultures between China and Western Countries and Their Impact on the Recovery of Ethnic and Rural Areas

Article excerpt

Integration is the one of the main trends of world development today. Whether in Europe or in Asia, the actual impact of global connections is everywhere. In this context, the consumer culture of the western countries is spreading rapidly across the world. With the expansion of the Internet and new media and the rapid circulation of goods and services, cultures are capable of reaching all corners of the globe. However, the dominance of certain languages and cultures exert a far-reaching influence on people from very different backgrounds. Under this tide of global contacts, traditional consumer culture in China is being influenced by western consumer culture in many ways. Trends of both conflict and integration are emerging and, with them, opportunities for development.

Different ethnic groups and societies have different cultural patterns, each which has its own characteristics, value orientation and potential value consciousness. Therefore, in the study of cross-cultural issues, researchers tend to use territorial aspects as well as ethnic differences, sometimes making up nations and nationalities. These variables are used to explain the differences among people's attitudes and behavior and reveal the value orientation of diverse human groups.

In her well-known book Patterns of Culture, Ruth Benedict indicated that cultural development is always a process of integration, where some cultural material is selected, absorbed, rationalized, standardized, institutionalized and strengthened, becoming part of the psycho-socio-logical and behavioral characteristics of a given group, and of its historical memory (Benedict 93-94). However, other cultural material is also abandoned, suppressed from memory records, and altogether eliminated from common archives, losing its overall significance and value. In time, these processes of cultural integration conform common ideals, behavioral patterns and, in the case of consumer culture, consumer styles, attitudes and value orientations. Thus, consumption can vary significantly among cultures, countries and nationalities.

Consumer culture has been defined as the spectrum of consumption choices and behaviors from a socio-cultural point of view. Because it denotes a social arrangement in which the relations between lived cultural and social resources come into contact, the field includes a number of theoretical perspectives that reflect the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, socio-cultural aspects, and the contextual marketplace. Consumer culture theory is built on the borderland between cultural studies, the study of markets and the exchange of material resources, as well as consumer behavior. As such, it also involves semiotic aspects of how products are commercialized by means of building certain identities and group orientations through the images, slogans and other signs used in their advertising.

China's consumer culture has attracted worldwide attention in recent years because of its rapid development. The People's Republic of China, with its huge population and long cultural history, has an amazing consumption capacity. The characteristics of China's consumer culture show significant differences in many aspects not only with western consumer cultures, but also with other Asian countries such as Japan or South Korea. But very importantly, western culture is having a great impact on the process of the development of China's consumer culture.

Collisions are inevitably taking place between modern consumption culture, coming from the west, based on a stronger sense of individual identity, and China's traditional consumer culture, which follows Confucian and collectivist models of lack of self-display (Zou and Wang 14). There is also an ideological gap the two, as well as a huge level of influence of western consumer forms upon traditional Chinese consumerism. China faces an incapacity to discriminate and criticize western forms coming into the country, and among the young there is even a tendency to give greater validation to anything coming from the west. …

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