In an effort to contain class resentment stemming from a growing wealth gap, China has outlawed public ads that extol luxurious or ‘high end’ things. Are they onto something? Partial Objects takes note:
The clean up means commercials posted or aired in public can no longer include words like “supreme”, “royal”, “luxury” or “high class”, all of which frequently appear in Chinese promotions for real estate developments, vehicles and wines.
This move is designed to deal with the growing resentment about the wealth gap that exists between (some) urban and rural Chinese.
But note that they aren’t banning the wealth itself, or taxing it to oblivion; but managing the appearance of wealth, the description of wealth. It’s still okay to sell high end real estate, just don’t describe it as “elite” or “luxury.”
The Chinese government is fighting a linguistic battle, not an economic one. Anyone who sees a nice car may want one, but it is the description of that car and not the car itself that makes it an aspirational good. As long as the people who cannot afford the car do not feel it necessary to obtain one– as long as it doesn’t become a symbol of their poverty or wealth, they can hold off the revolution for a decade or so.
Peking University sociologist Xia Xueluan said many advertisements promote the belief that “wealth is dignity” — which is a message Americans have heard loud and clear, and the Chinese are hearing.