The China Quarterly



research article

introduction


michel  hockx  and julia  strauss 

this collection offers a variety of perspectives on culture in contemporary china. we begin and end with pieces by jing wang and deborah davis on the production and consumption of culture in general, before moving on to three specific areas: visual culture, music and poetry. jing wang's opening piece on “bourgeois bohemians” (bobos) in china revolves around the all-important question of how taste is constructed and a multiplicity of lifestyles imagined. in china as elsewhere in the world, lifestyles are first imagined and transmitted through advertising. wang describes how marketing campaigns propagate idealized lifestyles to different segments of china's self identified urban middle class; notably the bohemian and the xin xin renlei. deborah davis focuses on the consumption end of culture, suggesting that for all the real resentments and worries engendered by growing income inequality and job insecurity, urbanites in shanghai experience consumer culture and the pursuit of individual taste and comfort in the home through shopping to be positive experiences, particularly when juxtaposed against the deprivations of the past. both wang and davis show that the production and consumption of culture are complex phenomena that go beyond mere market manipulation. there is substantial agency involved, from urbanites joyfully participating in redecoration of their flats to the ways in which niche segments of the urban middle class separate into different “tribes.”

the braester, denton and finnane essays focus on different aspects of the production and consumption of visual culture: film, museums and fashion. braester suggests that one cannot sharply differentiate commercial film from art film on the basis of content or aesthetics, as directors previously known for making art films move into commercials, and both share similar sensibilities.