From Publishers Weekly
Although China remains nominally socialist, consumerism has become deeply entrenched, the ramifications of which will be considerable--and global--according to Gerth (China Made), Oxford University professor of modern Chinese history. He paints a vivid picture--and historical context--for the waning of frugality and the traditionally high rates of saving and the rise of pop culture, luxury-brand consumption and car culture, a burgeoning advertising industry, the ubiquity of Chinese counterfeits, and--more sordidly--the development of the largest commercial sex work force in the world, the theft of baby girls for adoption export, and the sale of essential organs. Gerth makes an arresting argument that Chinese consumption may be the panacea for the scrabbling economies of the West; Chinese demand for American and European high-tech goods, financial services, and other products might create jobs and economic growth and, in turn, lead to a stable, increasingly capitalistic, and eventually democratic China. Required reading for those interested in shifting global power dynamics and current consumption patterns. (Nov.) (c)
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The austere China Gerth experienced as a 1980s student contrasts with the economically charging country he teaches today as a professor in Britain. Interested in consumerism, Gerth delves into the effects individuals’ purchasing preferences are producing on China; the domestic and international political impact of Chinese growth is not addressed—for that, see The Beijing Consensus, by Stefan Halper (2010). To initiate his observations, Gerth typically seizes on something that didn’t exist in his student days: for example, beauty salons, private automobiles, or disposable chopsticks. Businesses and entire industries that have arisen to meet consumers’ desire for such products and services generate Gerth’s discourse, which he researched from Chinese media and discussion with his contacts. Mao’s China recedes to distant memory in the resulting depiction of capitalistic construction, ubiquitous advertising, and status-conscious shopping. Certain consequences of Chinese consumerism do not escape Gerth’s acuity: he spots social resentments, piracy of intellectual property, pollution, and “extreme markets” (trade in sex, human organs, and adoptions) as problems. Describing the present, Gerth will sensitize business or tourist travelers to Chinese markets. --Gilbert Taylor