President Hu Jintao’s Crusade Against Consumerism

“Shame on those who wallow in luxury, extravagance, pleasures and leisure”

Date: 8 August 2013

Venue: AM102, Alan MacDiarmid Building, Kelburn Campus

Speaker: Thomas Boutonnet


This talk studied the “Eight Honors and Eight disgraces” (barong bachi 八荣八耻) campaign, an educational campaign launched in 2006 by the Chinese Communist Party in order to improve public morality and patriotic feelings, and to “rectify” Chinese attitudes towards luxury, consumerism and profit. This campaign expressed the CCP’s concerns, not for social equity but for social stability, and was a response to the growing internal instability and the worsening of social inequality in China.

In this campaign, the CCP attempted to draw citizens’ attention to a whole range of alleged risk factors for China's social stability and political unity (such as corruption, selfishness, lack of morality, “non-scientific” or “non-patriotic” behaviors), and sought to discourage conspicuous luxury consumption practices. Consumerism, as an ideological framework that shapes social behaviors, was clearly designated as a major issue for China.

This paper discussed the campaign by considering its context – Chinese consumer society in the 2000 decade – and considers the implications of the CCP's obsession with social stability.

About the speaker

Thomas Boutonnet has a PhD in Chinese and Transcultural Studies and was the executive director of the Lyon Confucius Institute in 2009-2010. He currently lectures in the Department of Chinese Studies of the University of Strasbourg and is an active member of the Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies. He is also joint editorial manager of Transtext(e)s Transcultures, a fully-refereed academic journal, and research associate for the MC3M International Research Network on Migration and Citizenship.

His main research interests include ideology and discourse in contemporary China, Chinese official and political language, technologies of power, and the discourses surrounding the notion of “civilisation” in modern and contemporary China. His PhD thesis, entitled “Towards a ‘Harmonious’ Consumer Society? The Discourse and Spectacle of Social Harmony in the Construction of a ‘Civilized’ China (1978-2008)”, focused on Hu Jintao's concept of a “harmonious society” and its relation to the development of consumerism.