The impact of such processes as globalization, industrialization, and migration cannot be ignored in modern society. Even the most isolated nations underwent considerable social, economic, and political changes during the last several centuries, and China is not an exception. After the death of a great political leader, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping became the leader of the Communist Party and developed a number of reforms that transformed China on a global arena (Laurenceson, 2018). The digital revolution spread across the country, using the Internet as the major connection between China and the world. The Deng era was characterized by media commercialization and decentralization (Berg, 2010). It was also the period when a new generation of consumers was born and raised, now known as Generation X. This paper aims to investigate the peculiarities of Generation X as consumers, clarify the role of young people in consumerism, and define the major transformations in Chinese society, moral values, and cultural beliefs. Generation X survived serious economic reforms and observed the progress of human rights and freedoms and should understand new international opportunities as well as set appropriate demands that change the worth of consumerism.
Consumption remains an open topic for discussion in the publishing industry and the way of how it determines social values and beliefs. Depending on their personal experiences and economic and political activities at a certain period of time, the opinions of citizens were shaped and categorized as per different generations. Generation X (X’ers) introduced individuals who were born between the 1970s and the 1980s. During their childhood, the representatives of this generation observed significant political changes because of the death of Mao Zedong (Berg, 2010). These people did not directly experience such movements as postsocialism and transnational capitalism but were able to evaluate the benefits and threats of the nation’s transformation from its beginning. They were a brand-new human race in the publishing field that at the moment “enjoyed a renaissance in the era of reforms” that included “decentralization, deregulation, and diversity” (Pong, 2009, p. 222). Due to encouraged capitalist investment, the development of a banking system, and increased export sectors, X’ers firstly came of age in a consumer society with improved living standards and literacy rates (Erickson, 2009). The connection between print media and middle-class consumerism was inevitable.
The major innovative aspect for the chosen generation was the rise of academic opportunities, the need for knowledge, and access to new information. The progress of the publishing industry was rapid and noticeable during the Generation X period. In 1984, there were 418 state publishing establishments, and the number increased up to 568 in 2006 (Pong, 2009). Evident improvement was recognized in periodicals’ publications: 257 in 1949, 1,470 in 1979, and 8,000 in 2004 (Pong, 2009). Chinese nationalism determined mainstream consumerism, and Generation X formed a solid basis for changes and improvements. According to the investigations of Wang (2008), the chosen group of people makes up approximately 23 percent of Chinese consumers. These are the representatives of the middle class who contribute to the development of the publishing industry due to their reading habits and readership fashion (Wang, 2014). At the same time, a variety of published material and printed sources also feeds the middle class. As a result, a double-sided connection between Generation X and publishing consumerism influence the development of Chinese society and underline the role of culture and moral values.
The Role of Youth in the Consumer Revolution
The post-1970s period introduced a number of changes and opportunities for the citizens of China. On the one hand, it was possible to benefit from the lack of political and governmental control and pay attention to human rights and personal freedoms. On the other hand, old appeals to the already discredited ideologies became counter-productive, and young people were in need of revival ideas and effective leadership (Rosen, 2004). After the death of Mao, Chinese citizens were “still reeling and struggling to make ends meet” (Cain, 2018). However, children who were born in that period were the products of a new economy and improved demands and aspirations. Nowadays, in the 2010s, Generation X becomes the nation who earns independently and spends their money as per their needs and interests. They are the main consumers and the drivers of the Consumer Revolution in the country. Compared to the youth of the 1980s who were focused on life meaning searching, the youth of Generation X is defined as success-oriented seekers for good life (Rosen, 2004).These people are able to set their priorities in regards to the already established social norms and regulations.
A distinctive feature of modern young adults is their possibility to spend their powers and resources not on the development and sustainable growth but on stability and improvement. Today, Generation X includes more than 400 million Chinese young adults who find communities in a digital world, make online purchases, and enjoy the advantages of mobile transactions (Hyslop, 2017). Youth can reshape society and change the way of how the media and the publishing industry are consumed. Marketers interact with consumers, develop new strategies, and introduce brands that demonstrate their life’s achievements. Still, it is wrong to consider young people only as consumers. Berg (2010) explained the necessity to expose a writing experience of the modern youth and their contributions to the publishing industry. There are many young, ambitious, intellectual, and revolutionary writers who started working at the end of the 1990s, relying on their Generation X past (Wu, 2014). Compared to Mao era where strict rules and limitations were imposed, a new era brought market competitions to all publishing units and media sources (Pong, 2009). The Consumer Revolution has already begun and continues obtaining new characteristics with time.
Youth Culture and Consumerism
The connection between consumerism and youth culture plays an important role in understanding Chinese culture, society, and future development. This relationship becomes stronger with every new discovery and opportunity, and many young people are unable to distinguish the line between what they want and what they need. The youth pay their attention to commercial shopping instead of focusing on heritage shop houses and classic literature (Ismail & Nadarajah, 2016). In other words, young consumers are brand conscious and dependent on the style and latest fashion. Pong (2009) discovered that in the 2000s, publishers were ready to spend millions of yuan to market printed and Internet authors as brands and best-sellers. People do not pay attention to what they need for their emotional, spiritual, and psychological stability and development. They surf the web not to spend time on visiting real shops and find the more appropriate for them alternatives.
Public consumption gains new forms in modern society that both confuses and inspires people. Chinese consumers are influenced by multiple Western commercial ideas such as “individuality, luxury, freedom of choice of products, success, and modernity” (Tong, 2015, p. 23). They want to obtain as many options as possible and discover all the secrets and private issues. During the Mao era and earlier, the literature was organized in the way that authors focused on privacy and intrigue. Nowadays, one of the best-selling strategies is to expose private lives for public consumption, as well as the pros and cons of China’s economic transformations (Berg, 2010). If the publishing industry banned many literary works because of certain cultural and political limitations, the Internet provided consumers with access to web sources where digital texts of many old banned works can be found (Berg, 2010). As a result, youth culture predetermined the development of a new genre within print culture and consumerism that is now known as web (or Internet) literature.
Consumerism and Chinese Society
Some transformations in Chinese society may be explained in terms of consumerism. The investigations of Browne, Dendler, Di, and Zhang (2016), as well as many other modern researchers, proved that the Chinese consumer revolution continues developing along with such processes as urbanization and rural-urban migration. Modern authors confess that their true priorities are to make money and offer their writings to the people who want to spend their savings to stay in fashion and use brand products (Berg, 2010). Such attitudes towards publishing do not correspond with Communist ideals; still, they cannot be forbidden and banned. Consumption influences the quality of life and the possibility to be developed or lose the already made achievements. There are certain shifts in Chinese society, including the rise of the middle class and the acceptance of the Western style of life (Simões, 2016). Still, despite the presence of western impact in China, its citizens and the government take all possible steps to protect their cultural heritage and history.
Taking into consideration the basics of consumerism, it may have both positive and negative outcomes on Chinese society. Consumerism is defined as a desire to possess something according to personal needs (Baker, 2016). Firstly, Chinese society is transformed in economic respect by the desire to have and spend more, thus promoting a demand cycle, increased employment, and better production. Secondly, the commercial publishing industry undergoes rapid changes and enhances investors’ interests. Its recognition on a global arena provokes the commercialization of literature, demand satisfaction, and profit maximization (Berg, 2010). However, consumerism is also the reason for society to neglect their values to win competitions and obtain material benefits (Baker, 2016). Depression, the necessity to work longer, and regular research and assessment remain the main negative aspects of consumerism for Chinese society. Control and sustainable monitoring are required not to make cheap goods and ideas penetrate the Chinese market (Wang, 2018). Generation X is able to find out the ways to meet their needs and demands, but the government should never allow it happening at the expense of the quality of life.
The Culture of Consumption and Moral Values
Although the representatives of Generation X did not see economic and political orders inherent to the Mao era, they had to live under the conditions that were predetermined by the events of that period. Their parents and grandparents shared their experiences and knowledge to support the cultural and moral development of the youth. However, access to the Internet, the necessity to learn other cultures and traditions (because of globalization), and the possibility to compare living and working standards at a global level influence people and determine their moral values. There are many studies that are developed to understand the relationship between spiritual or moral development of Generation X and consumerism. For example, the evaluation of the middle-class tastes proved that despite the intentions to buy many things and use them for own purposes, frugality still remains a crucial, traditional virtue among the Chinese (Zhu, 2016). In addition, in China, many individuals are conscious about moral control on the public, so they do not lose face in their families and workplaces. It seems that people want to know as much as possible about each other but never expose their private lives.
Moral values are also challenged by rapidly developing and integrated consumer culture. According to the rules of new consumer culture, lifestyle magazines reveal secret lives of celebrities or politicians and ignore existing moral values (Berg, 2010). Still, there is a need to respect people and their private lives. Some organizations and publishers are ready to demonstrate their understanding and support of the population and decrease their profits. Many publishing companies want to use any chance to attract the reader’s attention. Yu (2014) observed that the moral state of modern Chinese citizens is far from being satisfying because of their focus on money and low respect to traditions. Nevertheless, despite the evident presence of negative factors of consumerism in moral values and beliefs, it still remains one of the factors that interpret Chinese identity and culture (Wang, 2014). Shifts in spirituality and integrity of the population cannot be ignored, but consumerism is not the only cause of these changes.
Consumerism is a phenomenon that has to be controlled by the government. However, pressure should not be the only outcome in the country, and political protests can be one of the possible forms of control. According to Bosco (2016), religion and politics are usually interrelated, and political protests are characterized by sacred quality in order to underline community and cultural values, justice, and the future of the country. Consumerism is not a threat to China, and the government tries to encourage consumers to spend money to increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product rates (Li, 2014). Therefore, it is wrong to believe that the behaviors and decisions of Generation X as brand-new consumers may create a margin for political protests in the nearest future.
In general, the theme of consumerism in China provokes a number of discussions and debates. Generation X is not just another group of people with their principles and demands. These individuals were born at the junction of two significant eras in the history of the country. They also survived the development of Internet technologies and the spread of web literature as a part of consumer culture. As well as any new phenomena, consumerism has both positive and negative impacts on Chinese society, and Generation X turns out to be better prepared for changes and innovations compared to other citizens because of the abilities to recognize and use the results of the Cultural Revolution during the Mao era and the Economic Revolution during the Deng era.
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