China Daily, et al, report that
Advertisements that promote products as luxurious or “high-end” have been banned in a move experts say is designed to protect social harmony.
The clean up means commercials posted or aired in public can no longer include words like “supreme”, “royal”, “luxury” or “high class”…
This move is designed to deal with the growing resentment about the wealth gap that exists between (some) urban and rural Chinese.
Additionally, they are banning ads that promote “xenophilia,” “feudal emperors” (i.e. the pre-Mao days) and even the older Chinese script itself (the more ornate style that is apparently popular among the affluent and Taiwanese.)
But note that they aren’t banning the wealth itself, or taxing it to oblivion; but managing the appearance of wealth, the description of wealth. It’s still okay to sell high end real estate, just don’t describe it as “elite” or “luxury.”
The Chinese government is fighting a linguistic battle, not an economic one. Anyone who sees a nice car may want one, but it is the description of that car and not the car itself that makes it an aspirational good. As long as the people who cannot afford the car do not feel it necessary to obtain one– as long as it doesn’t become a symbol of their poverty or wealth, they can hold off the revolution for a decade or so.
He said many advertisements promote the belief that “wealth is dignity”
which is a message Americans have heard loud and clear, and the Chinese are hearing.
Also note that the regulation is aimed at advertisements. While traditional media is also controlled, the importance of advertisements as definers of a culture cannot be overstated. When they sell a car, they are also selling the image of the person driving that car. A consumer might resist the car ad, but not the image of that woman as an ideal. They can sell the car, say the Chinese, as long as you don’t tell them they should want to be like her.
Probably too late.
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