A Cultural Reading of Conspicuous Consumption in China

  • Min Zhou
Part of the International Series on Consumer Science book series (ISCS)


To adequately understand contemporary conspicuous consumption in China one needs to put it in a historical background and look at it not only from an economic perspective but also from cultural and political points of view. Both China and the West have had the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption at different historical periods, which, in their own ways, have constituted different cultural and political narratives and have demonstrated in them different characteristics. Three Confucian values that affect Chinese people’s consumption of luxurious commodities, namely, maintaining consistency between behavior and status, family reputation, and awareness of other people’s influence, are the cultural reasons that distinguish Chinse conspicuous consumption from that of the Western mode.


Conspicuous consumption Consumer society Culture Politics Confucian values 


  1. Bagwell, Laurie Simon, and Douglas B. Bernheim. 1996. Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption. The American Economic Review 86 (3): 349–373.Google Scholar
  2. Banerjee, Abhijit, and Esther Duflo. 2007. The economic Lives of the Poor. Journal of Economic Perspectives 21 (1): 141–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bao, Yeqing, Kevin Zheng Zhou, and Chenting Su. 2003. Face Consciousness and Risk Aversion: Do They Affect Consumer’s Decision-making? Psychology and Marketing 20 (8): 733–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belk, Russell W. 1988. Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research 15 (2): 139–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belk, Russel W., Kenneth D. Bahn, and Robert N. Mayer. 1982. Developmental Recognition of Consumption Symbolism. Journal of Consumer Research 9 (1): 4–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell, Daniel. 1976. The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Charles, Kerwin Kofi, Erik Hurst, and Nikolai Roussanov. 2009. Conspicuous Consumption and Race. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (2): 425–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christen, Markus, and Ruskin Morgan. 2005. Keeping Up with the Joneses: Analyzing the Effect of Income Inequality on Consumer Borrowing. Quantitative Marketing and Economics 3 (2): 145–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Featherstone, Mike. 2007. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism. 2nd ed. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2014. Luxury Dynamics. In New Agenda of Cultural Studies: Property, Aesthetics and Globalization, ed. Yu Jianhua and Jin Huimin, 86–104. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fortune Research Institute. Report on Conspicuous Consumption in China in 2015: Down from the Altar. Tengxun Fashion. 8 Jan. 2016.
  12. Gao, Leilei, Chrisitan Wheeler, and Shiv Baba. 2009. The “Shaken Self ”: Product Choices as a Means of Restoring Self-View Confidence. Journal of Consumer Research 36 (1): 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Han, Young Jee, Joseph C. Nunes, and Xavier Drèze. 2010. Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence. Journal of Marketing 74 (4): 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Keynes, John Maynard. 1936. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  15. Leibenstein, Harvey. 1950. Bandwagon, Snob, and Vablen Effects in the Theory of Consumer Demand. Quarterly Journal of Economics 64 (2): 183–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mason, Roger. 1983. The Economic Theory of Conspicuous Consumption. International Journal of Social Economics 10 (3): 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. O’Cass, Aron, and Hmily Frost. 2002. Status Brands: Examining the Effects on Non-Product-Related Brand Associations on Status and Conspicuous Consumption. Journal of Product and Brand Management 11 (2): 67–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pan, Yu, Gao Li, and Wang Fanghua. 2009. Behavior Research on Chinese Consumers: A Confucian Perspective. Chinese Industry and Economy 9: 80–84.Google Scholar
  19. Postrel, Virginia. 2008. Inconspicuous Consumption: A New Theory of the New Leisure Class. The Atlantic 302 (1): 148–150–151.Google Scholar
  20. Richins, Marshal L. 2004. The Material Values Scale: Measurement Properties and Development of a Short Form. Journal of Consumer Research 31 (1): 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sivanathan, Niro, and Nathan C. Pettit. 2010. Protecting the self through Consumption: Status Goods as Affirmational Commodities. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (3): 564–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Stanley, Thomas, and D. Danko William. 1998. The Millionaire Next Door. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Wang, Ning. 2010. The Cultural Logic from Thriftism to Consumerism. The Journal of Lanzhou University 3: 11–23.Google Scholar
  24. Wicklund, Robert A., and Peter M. Gollwitzer. 1981. Symbolic Self-completion, Attempted Influence, and Self-depression. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 2 (2): 89–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wong, Nancy Y., and Aaron C. Ahuvia. 1998. Personal Taste and Family Face: Luxury Consumption in Confucian and Western Societies. Psychology and Marketing 15: 423–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Yuan, Shaofeng. 2013. Conspicuous Consumption of Chinese: Antecedents and Consequences. Beijing: Chinese Economic Publishing House.Google Scholar
  27. Yuan, Shaofeng, Yan Gao, and Youxin Zheng. 2009. Consciousness of Face, Status Differentiation and Conspicuous Consumption: Theoretical Modes and Practice Tests. Forum on Finance and Economics 5: 81–86.Google Scholar
  28. Zhang, Mengxia. 2006. Definition and the Value Study of Luxury Consumption. Economy Management 12: 23–29.Google Scholar
  29. Zhang, Xin-an, Jie Li, and Yuan Ma. 2010. Chinese Consciousness of Face and Status and Consumption Behavior. Journal of Management Science 6 (4): 14–28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Min Zhou
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Literary StudiesShanghai International Studies UniversityShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations