By Hongmei Li
In the past few decades, Chinese advertising experienced exponential development. Advertising has gained strategic and symbolic importance in opening up society and developing the economy in China.
History of Chinese advertising in the broad sense can be traced back to the Song dynasty when stores used signs and words to advertise services (Wang, 2008). In the 1920s and 30s, advertising in Shanghai was already a dynamic industry, with foreign advertising agencies and brands competing with the Chinese counterparts prior to World War II.
After the Chinese Communist Party took over China in 1949, the government gradually eliminated commercial advertising considering that a centralised socialist economy did not need advertising. During the Culture Revolution (1966-1976), there was almost no commercial ads except for limited commercial information about exports to foreign countries (Chen, 1991).
China officially announced to resume commercial advertising in 1978 after The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. At this meeting, China’s leader Deng Xiaoping declared that China would shift from a political orientation focusing on class struggle to a more pragmatic approach centred on economic reforms and the opening of its economy to global capital. Since then, advertising has gained strategic and symbolic importance in opening up society and developing the economy in China.
In the past few decades, Chinese advertising experienced exponential development. Foreign advertising agencies trotted after their global clients to enter China in 1979 right after the country decided to open its door to the outside world. Now foreign brands and advertisements have become an inherent part of the daily lives of Chinese consumers.
About the Author
Hongmei Li (PhD, University of Southern California) is associate professor of strategic communication at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Her research focuses on advertising and consumer culture, Chinese culture and society, gender and sexuality, national branding and public diplomacy, global communication, and culture of new communication technologies. She is the author and editor of Advertising and Consumer Culture in China (polity, 2016), The Middle Class in Emerging Societies: Consumer, Lifestyles and Market (Routledge, 2015), and Building the BRICS: Media, Nation Branding and Global Citizenship (International Journal of Communication, 2016).