Beijing, here we come!

By: Zachary Kennedy, Anna Lipscomb and Jacob Lokshin

We can’t believe that these two weeks in LA have passed by so quickly! It seems like just yesterday we walked into VKC 154, spilled a few pretzels, and debated who is the best Bing Bing (Li Bing Bing or Fan Bing Bing? Choose your side. It’s also worth noting that this debate produced our group name – Team Bing Bing).

As the name suggests, Team Bing Bing will be examining the presence of celebrity endorsements in China. We will be especially focusing on foreign celebrities. We don’t know what exactly we will find in China, but we predict that there will be a mix of both foreign and Chinese celebrities used to advertise products. We also believe that foreign and western celebrities will be more popular and visible in more westernized, metropolitan cities such as Shanghai and Beijing than in Hebi and Zhengzhou. We also anticipate foreign brands to use foreign celebrities more frequently than Chinese brands. We will examine how these stars are used to advertise products related to their areas (movie stars advertising films, sports stars advertising sports products, etc) as well as products unrelated (food, technology, luxury goods, etc.).

Although Friday was our last official class, it’s only the beginning of Global East Asia.

After reviewing our trusty toolbox of knowledge about things such as deculturization, reculturization, and acculturization (a term whose definition is still being debated by the entire class), we discussed our readings on Shanghai and Zhengzhou. We also went over general travel information such as packing and currency.


Professor Sheehan instills his knowledge and wise travel tips upon his enthusiastic pupils before they embark on their journey to a new hemisphere. He also shared a few thrilling stories of past GEA years, stimulating excitement and anticipation from the students about the adventures that lie ahead of them.

Although we come from a generation famous for being exceptionally tech-savvy, we were faced with our first challenge of many to come: installing the USC VPN on our phones and portable computers. Nevertheless, we put our minds together and overcame this obstacle.

We spent our Saturday scrambling to buy our sunscreens and bug spray (because it’s better to be safe than sorry, and Chinese insects are flying harbingers of death according to the USC Health Center), stuffing our suitcases full, emptying out our refrigerators, and contemplating the effects of globalization on our human existences.

On Sunday morning, we literally rised and shined. Between the times of 4-5 am, those of us on the group flight Uber’d to the airport (We encouraged Papa Sheehan to join the Uber bandwagon. Uber is now a Sheehan-approved mobile application).  Since we got there early, we had to entertain ourselves.


As punctual Trojans, the Global East Asia students got to the airport 3+ hours early. While waiting for their flight, they passed the time by playing Sushi card games, working on this blog post, eating banana bread (thanks Papa Sheehan for looking after our empty stomachs!), and getting pumped for China (and internally panicking of the short layover time in SFO… oh, the joys of travel).

The 45-minute layover in San Francisco was quite an experience. Although our flight was only about an hour, we spent roughly half an hour sitting in the plane at SFO because we couldn’t get off since another plane was still at our gate. When we finally got off, we dashed to the international terminal – it was extremely close, but we made it!

Since we wanted to get adjusted to China time, most of us pulled all-nighters before (or we were frantically trying to pack our bags and figuring out where we put our passports). Therefore, most of us spent the 12-hour flight sleeping and watching movies/TV shows on our mobile devices. Some of us stretched our legs and walked around the airplane looking for snacks.


A view of Beijing from the airplane window.

When we finally got to Beijing it was May 30th (thanks to the 15 hour time difference)! Although we may be a slightly jet-lagged, we can’t wait for all the adventures and stories and crazy experiences to come!

May 27th, 2016 Update

By: Anbar Aizenman, Rowan McEvoy and Cindy Wang


Prof. Sheehan discussing Tourism in Beijing

We are coming to the end of our time here at USC and class is starting to wrap up. Professor Sheehan finished lecturing on Chinese history, so we have moved on to analyzing our the sites we will be visiting (Beijing, Zhengzhou, Hebi and Shanghai). The readings have also tapered off a little as we move away from analyzing scholarly articles towards less dense materials.

Over the past couple of days, we have been extensively reviewing our toolkit of useful concepts related to globalization as introduced through our various readings. The ideas should be a good way to analyze sources we find through our fieldwork in China. Here are some of the ones we have come across:

  • Spaces as places to be consumed
  • Having a flexible identity relating to consumption
  • The relative nature of tradition, as all traditions were invented at some time
  • More specific ways of defining hybridization

For our group’s project, we plan on looking at the cell phone industry in China. We want to figure out the differences between domestic companies and foreign ones in advertising strategies and marketing. Furthermore, we want to analyze middle-end and high-end phones in the same fashion. In terms of phones, the market is large enough that we implemented some limitations in order to give our project a better sense of scope. We decided to only focus on smartphones, and within the smartphone industry, specifically we want to look at those from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi. Given the prevalence of these four brands, we should have plenty of data to work with.

In terms of locations for researching, we plan on visiting electronics malls, middle and high-end more general malls, individual retailers, and possibly even flagship stores. In addition to browsing the areas and looking at advertisements, we also intend on speaking with sales staff. Although Anbar knows very little Chinese and Rowan has taken merely a semester of it, Cindy is fluent in the language as she grew up in Hangzhou, China. We are therefore counting on her to get us through some interactions and make sure Anbar and Rowan do not make fools of themselves.

We leave for China on Sunday and look forward to keeping you posted on our exploits.

May 25, 2016

By: Brandon Cheung, Jonathan Kim and Jasper McEvoy

The whole group! Except Brandon...

The whole group! Except Brandon…From left: Anna, Cindy, Professor Sheehan, Jacob, Anbar, Zach, Jasper, Jonathan, and Rowan.

More than a week into the East Asian Studies Center’s Global East Asia program, we’ve already learned so much about Chinese consumer culture, and are excited to experience it firsthand when we fly to Beijing on Sunday. Unfortunately, that means jet lag and a lot of it! Just as soon as we’ve settled into our daily routine of preparing for class at 9:00 AM, we’ll be adjusting to the fifteen hour time difference between Los Angeles and Beijing. Nevertheless, the time we’ve spent in class so far has been a truly stimulating and enjoyable educational experience. During this time, we have immersed ourselves in the study of Chinese consumer culture. We read Lianne Yu’s book on the consumption patterns of China’s emerging upper-middle class, Consumption in China. We also read an article written by Eric Hobsbawm on the nature of tradition and customs, as well as a number of other thought-provoking readings relevant to our study of consumer culture in modern China. Our enthusiastic, board-game loving Papa Sheehan (as we affectionately call him) has provided us with captivating lectures on the history of globalization and China since the 1850’s–specifically, how we’ve come to identify how the nation has developed alongside as well as through consumerism. Some of the more relevant history we’ve studied includes: the power struggle between The Nationalist and Communist Parties, the rise of Mao Zedong and Communist China, and the emergence of capitalism after Mao. We have also discussed earlier Chinese history such as the Taiping Rebellion, the Boxer Rebellion, and the effects of Japanese imperialism. In addition, we’ve learned how to identify key features of Chinese geography (for example, what distinguishes North from South and East from West, as well as the Chinese border). We have also learned about international trade networks, such as the Silk Road and the Triangle Trade. However, most importantly, we were taught Sheehan’s Eight Rules for Historical Analysis:

1.         It’s all about the sources;

2.         Sources lie;

3.         Bad sources are better than no sources;

4.         Evaluate sources carefully;

5.         Explain, don’t describe;

6.         Don’t read the present into the past of the past into the present;

7.         Don’t romanticize the past;

8.         Think spatially as well as temporally — know your geography.

Professor Sheehan lecturing and flashing a smile.

Professor Sheehan lecturing and flashing a smile.

Using our daily reading assignments, Papa Sheehan has encouraged us to stock our metaphorical “analytical toolboxes” with terminology relevant to the course. For example, in Lianne Yu’s book, Consumption in China, as well as other sources, we’ve drawn important words and phrases like “neo-tribe,” “imagined community,” “glocalization,” and “deconstructed/reconstructed culture.” With these terms, we have discovered ways to precisely analyze consumer culture that we never thought possible, and some group members have even invented new terminology that has been useful in class discussions. The discussions themselves have been invaluable as well. It’s been great to hear everyone’s unique takes on the readings, and how we can find so many ways to relate a new concept to ones from previous days, to anecdotes from our lives that compare and contrast China and America.

Team Question Mark (in the foreground) and Team Bingbing work on their research proposals.

Team C.A.R. (in the foreground) and Team Bingbing work on their research proposals.

As we learn more about China, we have begun to prepare for our upcoming research. We have split into three research groups: one focusing on cell phones, one focusing on entertainment, and the last (our group) on snack food. In order to prepare for the field, we have taken time this week to meet with our groups and, using what we learned from lecture and discussion, discuss potential findings and other expectations. For our research, we plan to look at snack foods in the shopping malls and convenience stores of cities throughout China, specifically analyzing foreign influence on sweet snack foods.

Lastly, since meeting for the first time, our class has come to know each other and develop a close-knit sense of companionship inside and outside of the course. As a class, we’re on the smaller side (only nine students!), but what we lack in size we make up for in energy and enthusiasm… and Cindy — our only Mandarin speaking classmate. We’ve had an incredibly rich and memorable experience and look forward to many future Korean Barbeques! We are leaving for China in four days and absolutely cannot wait.

Brandon gets a Papa Sheehan fist bump.

Brandon gets a Papa Sheehan fist bump.