Since the Cultural Revolution, China has had a strained relationship with the United States. Cold War pressures jeopardized political discourse between the two international giants. But President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 marked an economic awakening in China.
In recent decades, China has proven to be one the most influential actors in international political-economy. Trade between the United States and China has sky-rocketed, tying the two nations together economically despite their political differences. Consumerism in China has developed alongside the market-led economy, further elevated by the explosion of e-commerce in the country. While socio-political discourse is heavily influenced by the Chinese government, economic agency has become increasingly available to the Chinese people. E-commerce allows for a diversity in product selection previously denied to the Chinese consumer before B2C platforms like Taobao and TMall.
Increasing wages, a rapidly growing GDP and desire for economic globalization are a few examples of how China’s economy is flourishing at an unprecedented rate. As is the trend in many countries transitioning from a developing to a developed economy, these staggering growth rates will eventually level off. But will consumerist behavior level off as well? Probably not.
There has been a reorientation of social and cultural values in China. As more and more Chinese become comfortable with satisfying their consumer desires through e-commerce, the consumer identity will be fused with and ingrained in their cultural and social consciousness. Furthermore, a central factor in the relative decline of growth in the Chinese economy will prove to be employment and wage increases. Though the GDP may not grow so ravenously in coming decades, the Chinese consumer will have a deeper pocket and thus more consumer power.
Does this mean that China will westernize? That’s a difficult question to answer, but if China has proved anything, it is that economic development does not necessarily equate with social or cultural conformity to Western standards. Consumerism may globalize regional identities to a certain extent, but China is marked by a national pride that is not easily undermined. One thing is for sure: businesses of the world should take heed, because the Chinese consumer has arrived and is looking for products. The line between domestic and international commerce has been blurred by B2C platforms like TMall. Opportunity is knocking and exporting to e-commerce consumers in China provides an efficient and profitable way of answering this call.
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