Taking off to China Tomorrow!

By: Ashley Szydel, Phoebe Yin, and Megan Lee

Group discussion on plans for research in China

Group discussion on plans for research in China

It has already been two weeks since the first day of class. Everyone is so nice, extroverted and intelligent, which makes the class all the more enjoyable. The friendly environment of the class, along with such a benign professor has made us look forward to our upcoming journey in China even more. Within only two weeks of lecture, we have gotten a basic understanding of Chinese history and dived into its consumer culture since day one. Once mysterious and exotic, this East Asian country has slowly begun to reveal itself in front of our eyes.

To begin with, we want to express our excitement about taking off to China tomorrow. The idea that there is just one day of class in Los Angeles left is thrilling, even more so when we think about all there is to come in the next two weeks. The ability to take the information we have been learning in class and apply it to our on-site research is definitely something to look forward to. As we pack our bags, we couldn’t help but wonder all that lies ahead in China. What we’ll experience, what kinds of exotic flavors we’ll be tasting, what beautiful sights we’ll be seeing, and last but not least, what research we’ll be doing for our final project are all questions we are asking ourselves.

For our group’s project, our initial idea is that our final research project be focused on the forms of cosmetic brand advertisement in China. We are more specifically concentrating on marketing strategies as displayed in advertisements by three higher-level brands such as, L’Oreal, Lancome and Estee Lauder, as well as three lower-level brands in China such as, Da Bao, Xiao Hu Shi, Pehchaolin. Marketing strategies employed by different cosmetic companies vary in China when compared to other countries. Exploring the Chinese consumers’ perceptions of beauty, we want to see how these perceptions affect Chinese cosmetic companies’ advertisements. Moreover, how foreign cosmetic products were modified to appeal to Chinese consumers is an additional interesting point to explore. Last but not least, we made the interesting discovery that brands with foreign counterparts are considered higher-level and domestic brands are often seen as lower-level in terms of their status and price. We hope to take these ideas and further understand the difference in marketing among higher-level brands when compared with lower-level brands of cosmetics in China. With our departure quickly approaching, we look forward to sharing more on our adventure in China shortly.

Collected Thoughts Before Departure

By: Jon Peppin, Michelle Ngan, and Psalm Chang


As our trip to China draws closer and closer, I cannot help but be amazed at how rapidly our class has flown by. Although our course is labeled “Consumer Culture in China,” I feel as if I have learned an incredible amount about China’s history and political atmosphere in only 7 short days (information that normally entails a semester of study in other political science courses I have taken).

This RMB calculator slide might come in handy while in China, but more importantly, our great professor and TA made it in the shot.

This RMB calculator slide might come in handy while in China, but more importantly, our great professor and TA made it in the shot.

In terms of my own topic, I am extremely excited to study the reciprocal relationship between producer and consumer and all the characteristics of consumption in China on a first-hand basis. I plan to focus in on the electronics industry, with the domestic cellphone distributor, Xiaomi, being the center of my analysis. For my two page paper, I focused in on brand representation as a marketing strategy for the Xiaomi corporation, and the idea of consumption as a means of identity reinvention. It will be fascinating to examine the prevalence of this degree of consumption-induced identity in greater detail.

I am further looking forward to sharing and joining ideas with my group members; our objects of consumption span a wide range of interests, from the marketing of cosmetics, to the spreading of religious ideology. Although I am not absolutely certain as of now in terms of what area of emphasis we plan to hone in on––whether it be national v. international marketing, or the marketing of tangible v. intangible goods, I am looking forward to whatever adventures our studies will bring, and am extremely enthusiastic to be able to forge our own pathways towards our discoveries.


In our class thus far, we have read a variety of extraordinarily informative texts concerning consumer culture in China and globalization. I thought I had a good idea of what globalization was, but after the first day of class, I remember leaving the classroom not really knowing what globalization really meant. It’s really interesting reading these different texts and trying to develop an idea of globalization and determine its effects in China, particularly urban Chinese consumers. These readings, and our subsequent discussions of them, have really opened my eyes to what these consumers are like.

Throughout this past week and a half, we have been examining advertisements marketed towards these urban Chinese consumers, and analyzing them using techniques gained from our readings. It’s certainly helped me to look at an advertisement more objectively — not only the advertisements in class, but also the ones that I encounter every day here in the U.S. For my two-page paper, I focused on two advertisements released by Adidas as part of the transnational #mygirls campain: one during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the other in 2013. An interesting similarity between the two ads was the lack of marketing of clothing; rather, it appeared that Adidas was attempting to market the brand itself and the fact that its values aligned with the intended audience’s values of support networks.


This first ad features Chinese national football captain Zheng Zhi.

This second ad features Taiwanese girl group member Hebe Tian.

This second ad features Taiwanese girl group member Hebe Tian.

This will be my first time traveling to China. I am really excited to travel to China and see all the tourist spots, as well as gather evidence for the final paper, for which I am focusing on clothing advertisements for local and foreign clothing brands. So far, it’s been great getting to know everyone and preparing for the upcoming trip!


Echoing the sentiments of my two group mates, I am amazed by how much knowledge I have learned thus far in less than two weeks of class. Time goes by pretty fast, as the subject of the globalization of China and consumer culture is of interest to me. To be honest, I have never studied anything close to the topics we have been examining, so everything I am taking in is new and I am excited to apply the information learned while conducting research. Although the readings are lengthy and sometimes dense, the various texts we read are all adding to the tools that I will take with me to China and after finishing the course. One thing I’ve especially enjoyed reading is Lianne Yu’s book, Consumption in China, as it presents recent research and case studies that look into how China’s rapid development affects so many aspects, even beyond consumer culture, of Chinese people’s lives.

My two-page paper focused on two temples in China, Hanshansi Temple and The City God Temple of Shanghai. I looked into the different levels of appeal that each site presented, and how it was translated into different target audiences. The Hanshansi Temple is geared toward a broader audience, while The City God Temple focuses on those who practice the religion. Writing this paper brought me to realize that I will have to look further into religions, especially those practiced widely in China. To take a look at the websites I used, visit http://loading.hanshansi.org/index.html and http://www.shchm.org/

I’m sure our next post will find us intrigued by an even wider amount of knowledge and getting to know more about each other as we go off to experience China for ourselves!


The FoodFellas Take the Chinese Fast Food Market

By: Alice Kim and Chris Carpenter

As our two-week study session on USC campus is halfway done, we are excited to take what we’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to our explorations in China. For the past week, we’ve met up for 3 hours every morning from 9am-12pm in Von Kleinsmid Center (VKC) to learn more about the history and emergence of China as a superpower in the international community, the result of dynamic changes in social, economic, and political spheres, and enforcement of strict government policies such as the one child policy. All of us are extremely enthusiastic and passionate about learning more of China’s history and are amazed at the speed and intensity of growth within the past forty years. We all come from different backgrounds and majors, such as business, art history, and cinematic arts, but are connected through our desire to learn, dissect, and predict the economic changes of the world’s most populated nation.

The classroom schedule goes as follows: roughly two hours of announcements, answering questions about the overseas trip, and lectures and another hour of discussion on the assigned articles and books we’ve read. Our class was able to read several anecdotes and scholarly papers to gain knowledge about the past and presently changing consumer cultures in Beijing and Shanghai. Our main course readings come from Lianne Yu’s Consumption in China, a fairly short and easy read that contains 7 chapters. Lianne Yu focuses her attention on the middle and upper-middle classes of consumers in China as they are deemed the most dynamic and receptive of changes in their society. She highlights how conspicuous consumption has dramatically shaped and created various identities among consumers and how communication among neo-tribes, or groups of people affiliated with a common interest, has developed meaningful spaces of consumption and discussion in both the virtual and real worlds. Some chapters included the different lifestyle changes, increase in awareness, and change of status from the previous socialist society to the now capitalistic one.

Our textbook for the course and guide through China's consumer culture.

Our textbook for the course and guide through China’s consumer culture.

Our lectures allowed us to receive background information on the formation of the government, different political ideologies, and nationalism in China. We look forward to the next two weeks of information gathering and ad analysis in Beijing, Shanghai, and Kaifeng as well as exploration of these historic and culturally rich landmarks in China.

In structuring our research projects, we’ve had to equally weigh the ideal with the practical. We’re a diverse and passionate group of students who come from divergent areas of academic interest, but the reality of the project (and the key to the best, most solidified thesis) is to consider the in-country field research. Our group has decided to investigate the role of the fast food-style restaurant in China, a transplantation of a Western model to food and service that has taken hold and provided Chinese consumers with new and, as we’ve come to find out, valuable experiences. The strength of our project will be determined by our investigation of available sources and pieces of evidence regarding how the fast food industry has proliferated across Chinese urban spaces. It will be a wealth of information.

Our investigation of the Chinese fast food market will take us deep inside the world of the FoodFellas.

Our investigation of the Chinese fast food market will take us deep inside the world of the FoodFellas.

In class we had the opportunity to practice our analytical and critical thinking skills by comparing and assessing two or more images from various advertising campaigns across the Chinese market. Two of the most prevalent brands in the Chinese fast food market – KFC and McDonald’s – are both exports from the United States, but have taken hold and created interesting opportunities for culturization in various forms. Neither are pure, facsimile exports; they consider and employ tactics, images, phrases, and sensibilities that cater to and entice the Chinese consumer. For example, KFC is capitalizing on the Korean wave (Hallyu) that has impacted the consumer markets of East Asian nations, especially China. As seen in the ad below, Korean pop idols and actors are often used as celebrity endorsements to bring awareness of a new product for fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s, on the other hand, utilizes a sense of “foreign-ness” and globalized sensibilities to sell its products. Offerings such as the “Frappe Blend” and “Apple-a-la-Mode” are advertised in a way that makes no attempt to deculturize their Western origins or reculturize to its Asian market; rather, that sense of worldliness is what makes them valuable.

This ad shows 2 members from the South Korean pop boy group, EXO, posing with the StarPower combo and gift meal for the Chinese KFC’s most recent celebrity endorsement campaign.

This ad shows two members from the South Korean pop boy group, EXO, posing with the StarPower combo and gift meal for the Chinese KFC’s most recent celebrity endorsement campaign.

This Chinese McDonald's advertisement uses the phrase "Apple-a-la-Mode," itself an American phrase of French origin.

This Chinese McDonald’s advertisement uses the phrase “Apple-a-la-Mode,” itself an American phrase of French origin.

Ultimately, we are ecstatic to travel to China with the East Asian Studies Center and the Global East Asia program, and we can’t wait to delve into the world of advertising for fast food restaurants in the Chinese market to come to understand Chinese consumer culture and its relationship to the world a little better.