Consumption and Asian Market Socialism: Emerging Phenomena in China, India, and Vietnam


Clifford J. Shultz, II (1994) ,"Consumption and Asian Market Socialism: Emerging Phenomena in China, India, and Vietnam", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 220-221.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 220-221


Clifford J. Shultz, II, Columbia University

There is no longer much doubt that market-oriented economies are the preferred model for the majority of the world's governments. Since perestroika. and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the popular conclusion drawn by many observers is that communism has been slain and that capitalism is the victor. Such simple dichotomies, however, are counter to the realities of global trends as various nations seek to establish socioeconomic systems by which to govern. The stark reversal seen in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has created the popular misconception that all nations will follow a similar path; while Eastern Europe has disposed of its communist system, a few Asian countries are trying to find some middle ground between Stalinist-Socialism and Laissez Faire capitalism. This middle ground is often referred to as market socialism. The purpose of this special session was to examine consumer behavior and consumption patterns in three of these "middle ground" countries: China, India and Vietnam.

The three papers addressed the following questions. How does market socialism manifest itself and how do the three models presented here compare and contrast? What is the effect of market socialism on consumer behavior; again, are there differences among the three models? How does culture interact with this economic policy? What are the strategic implications for enterprises that compete in market-socialist countries; for example, how do consumers evaluate state-run versus joint venture ads and how can companies advertise effectively in these transforming economics? Can market socialism survive, i.e., is a middle ground a tenable solution?

Clifford J. Shultz, II and Anthony Pecotich, presented "Vietnam: New Assessments of Consumption Patterns in a(Re) Emergent Capitalist Society," and thus extended a research stream on Vietnamese consumption patterns by describing consumption phenomena in Vietnam during a critical phase of the nation's transformation to market socialism. Their findings were based on data collected on site and via secondary sources over the last two years. They noted that the consumption environment in Vietnam is presently very dynamic. ne emergent themes from their work indicated general themes of rapid social change and fragmentation of consumer attitudes and opinions. More specifically, they found growing market segmentation, entrepreneurship, and growing sophistication among both consumers and retailers and that consumer clout is being shaped by tourists, expatriates and returning Vietnam. They also discussed the growing influence of popular culture, the evolution of state and private enterprises, class stratification and social change, consumerism, and the evolution of other emergent themes examined in their earlier work. They concluded by suggesting the transformation may now be unstoppable despite rhetoric from some factions within the Communist Party of Vietnam and that the nation is lurching toward its ambition of Asian Tiger status.

Robert N. Stinerock and Stephen J. Gould, presented "India: A New Turn Toward Lakshmi" to discuss sociocultural forces and spatial identifiers manifested through their investigations of the texts and artifacts of Indian consumer culture. They described the popular aspirations of the "good life" and emphasized that as India makes its transition from a socialist, central I y-planned economy to a more privatized, freer market system, that the seeking of the pleasures of consumption is not new to India. Instead, they argue it is a process of evolutionary change and continuity rather than abrupt revolutionary overthrow and discontinuity, and that India is extending what has come before in terms of its traditional consumption patterns. Specifically, these patterns were rooted in its ancient religious and social customs; its colonial past; commercial and legal-political culture; and, finally, in its paternalistic socialism that, as a reaction to colonialism, constitutes a stage of development that has emphasized social reform and economic justice, particularly for the so-called "backward classes." They suggested the emergent consumer culture of India embeds these deeply rooted forces, but at the same time, represents not only a reaction to but even against these very forces. Beyond this, they contend the emergent consumer culture of India expresses itself in a diverse set of geocultural spaces and theatres. First, India is a composite of many cultures rooted in local-regional and religious cultural differences that serve to define markets and market segments (e.g., rural-urban disparities in a population where fewer than one third of the people live in cities). Second, India-as-a-nation -state forms an overarching identity and national market for its people regardless of their differences (e.g., religious strife and communal violence) and despite several independent, on-going separatist movements. Third, India is a major part of the vast and emerging Asian economy, and should be seen in relation to other Asian countries, most notably China, in terms of competition and trade. In this regard, they placed special emphasis on the similarities between, and differences among, India and two other Asian nations emerging from, and/or within, socialist contexts (e.g., Vietnam and China). Finally, India is part of the emerging world economy in which it is seeking to find its place and identity (e.g., its emulation of, yet resistance to, Western influences). Their opinions and findings were based on field work in India and among the overseas Indians in the United States, Britain, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia; product and packaging analyses; and content and semiotic analyses of Indian periodicals, advertisements, and television. Based on these analyses, they reported emergent consumption themes; evaluated the influence, or lack of influence of the social, cultural, and historic forces identified above; emphasized the elements marking the transition from a centrally planned, socialist economy to one characterized by more economic freedom, for consumers as well as producers. Their presentation concluded with a possible vision of where India might be heading as a consumer society.

Bernd H. Schmitt, presented "Advertising and Chinese Market Socialism: Perceptions of Advertisements for State-owned Enterprises and Joint Ventures." Schmitt shared three rudimentary observations in this presentation. First, the transition to a market oriented economy in the People's Republic of China has meant consumers now have a much wider selection of goods and services from which to choose and producers must compete for favorable consumer purchase decisions. Second, a condition endemic to the PRC's condition as well as market socialism, generally, is the emerging competition between traditional state-owned enterprises and newly formed join t-ventures. Third, advertising is fundamental to that competition. His study, based on these observations, was designed to answer the following question: Do consumers in the People's Republic of China perceive differences in the quality and execution of print advertisements for state-owned enterprises and joint ventures? To answer that question he reported the results of an empirical project, focusing primarily on print ads in the services industry. Results of a content analysis of consumers' responses as well as results from two experimental studies of consumers' re-sponses indicated that joint-venture ads are seen as more customer focused, more image-driven and more creative than ads for state owned enterprises. Also Chinese consumers evaluated joint-venture ads more positively than ads for state-owned enterprises. Differences were linked to management practices for communications in two types of firms. He concluded with a discussion of the implications of these findings for the PRC condition and other evolving models of market socialism as well as suggestions for future research.



Clifford J. Shultz, II, Columbia University


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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