The Embryo, Birth, and Renaissance of Advertising in China:
A Historical and Institutional Analysis of Its Seedbed
Hong Cheng, Ph.D.
Department of Communication
The Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts
Peoria, IL 61625
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Submitted to the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism
and Mass Communication for being considered to present at its annual convention
to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 4-7, 1999.
The Embryo, Birth, and Renaissance of Advertising in China:
A Historical and Institutional Analysis of Its Seedbed
Seeing advertising as a social communication, this paper examines the social
forces that have influenced and shaped the growth of advertising in China.
Taking historical and institutional approaches, it provides an in-depth review
and analysis of the embryo of Chinese advertising in distant history, its birth
early this century, and its renaissance since 1979. This study strongly supports
that only a properly functioning market economy can be a fertile seedbed for
If you take a stroll on Beijing's Chang'an Avenue -- the First Avenue of China
-- at night today, the chance is that your attention will be caught by a neon
advertising board erected for Eastman Kodak Co. on top of the China Post Hub
Building to promote the Kodak film. With more than 40,000 neon tubes, this
1,900-square yard board uses the advanced CPU central system -- the first time
for a neon advertisement in China -- from Intel Corp. and Motorola. This
eye-catching neon board, largest in China, is only one example of the
advertisements that are ubiquitous in the country nowadays -- on billboards, on
public buses, and above all, in magazines and newspapers, on radio, television,
and the World Wide Web.
As one of the fastest-growing industries in this fast-growing market,
advertising has experienced a substantial and sustained growth since 1979.
Between 1981 and 1997, for example, eight of the sixteen years under comparison
had an annual increase rate in advertising billings at 40% or more. In 1997,
China's advertising business volume reached $5.58 billion, ten times of the $.52
billion in 1990 and almost eighty times of the $.07 billion in 1981. As Paul
Parsons remarked, "China's advertising industry is witnessing its fastest growth
Such a rapid growth is, however, by no means accidental. In fact, it is largely
attributed to a social seedbed that has been so favorable of advertising growth
in the country during the last twenty years. This favorable seedbed, without a
historical perspective, is hard -- if not impossible -- to be fully understood.
Unfortunately, so far no organized study has ever been done to examine Chinese
advertising from such a historical perspective.
This study is believed to be of great significance in, at least, two senses.
First, a historical sketch it is to draw may help discover the path advertising
in China has come along. Any well-developed branch of learning has a solid
historical study as its foundation, and it should be no exception for the study
of Chinese advertising. The history of Chinese advertising is much longer than
two decades. Without an adequate knowledge of history, one is liable to make
More important, a historical study may enhance one's understanding of the
current situation of Chinese advertising. The particular revealed from the past
may serve as valuable comparisons with the present, helping put the rapid growth
of Chinese advertising in a historical context. Such a context may, in turn,
help those who are interested in Chinese mass communication in general and
Chinese advertising in particular gain a full picture of this important type of
social communication in the country.
In the last century, advertising developed from "the simple announcements of
shopkeepers and the persuasive arts of a few marginal dealers into a major part
of capitalist business organization" in the industrialized world. To explain
the current social status of advertising, scholars have developed an analysis in
which the economic, social, and cultural facets are meaningfully related. It has
also been noticed that "taking advertising as a major form of modern social
communication, ... we can understand our society itself in new ways."
According to Charles H. Sandage, father of U.S. advertising education, the
function of advertising makes its existence socially justifiable because it is
essentially aimed to "inform and persuade members of society in respect to
products, services and ideas" and to "develop judgment on the part of consumers
in their purchase practices." In the meantime, Sandage believed that
advertising is economically justifiable as well because "there is much in our
modern culture to support the concept of abundance."
Also focusing on the social environment for the growth of advertising in the
West, James W. Carey pointed out that "an understanding of advertising rests on
an understanding of the nature of the ideas and institutions in which
advertising found a fertile seedbed to grow." To him, advertising is an
institution and a humanly designed method of handling certain problems of
Kim B. Rotzoll and James E. Haefner elaborated on Carey's view by examining
three "powerful idea systems" of human societies: tradition, authority, and
classical liberalism; societies based on different idea systems provide
different seedbeds for advertising.
The idea system of tradition emphasizes the status quo and relies on direction
from the past, so "a society dominated by ideas of tradition generally would not
seem likely to view advertising as a 'natural' practice" because "one of
advertising's primal messages is a call for change."
The idea system of authority offers direction in the present and from the top.
In such a society, there is still little need for advertising because a society
limiting individual choice "would have no compelling reason to call on such a
pervasive form of paid persuasion." Even if advertising may be a presence in
an authoritarian society sometimes, it mainly serves to "reinforce decisions
that have already been made" by the authority "for (or 'on behalf of') the
To Rotzoll and Haefner, the fit of advertising is the tightest with a
market-driven society managed by classical liberalism. Based on the
philosophy of individualism spread since the Renaissance, and John Locke's ideas
like egalitarianism (that is, men are all equal at birth) and natural rights
(which include everyone's rights for life, liberty, and property), the Western
world transferred from a traditional societal system in the Middle Ages to the
market system, which has turned out "the most fertile of advertising
seedbeds." The rationale for this position is that in a market-driven
society, individual decision making, the pursuit for wealth, free competition,
and the need for information are encouraged. As the mass production since the
Industrial Revolution has led to mass marketing and mass communication, today's
advertising is functioning in a relationship as diagrammed in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Advertising's Function in a Market-driven Society
[--- Pict Graphic Goes Here ---]
Source: Derived from Michael Schudson, Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion: Its
Dubious Impact on American Society (New York: Basic Books, 1984), 168-69.
Historical and Institutional Approaches
In this study, historical and institutional approaches are taken simultaneously.
These two interrelated research methods enable the author to observe advertising
in China from a broad perspective.
By taking a historical approach, the author hopes to draw a brief historical
sketch for the path along which advertising in China has emerged. However,
history is more than a mere account of certain events occurring on certain dates
and of certain individuals doing certain things. As James D. Startt and Wm.
David Sloan pointed out,
The most valuable historical writing is always interpretive. Every time a
historian selects material or advances a generalization based on that material,
interpretation occurs. Every time one attempts to explain causation or to probe
into the nature of change, one interprets. Without interpretation, historical
study remains superficial, with no probing beneath the surface of facts to
determine why events occurred and why people acted as they did. With no attempt
to determine why, historical study provides mere chronology.
Given China has a long history, the entire past of its advertising is made up of
scattered bits and pieces ranging from dates to names to episodes and to
anything else one may think of. Interpretation is, therefore, a useful technique
to explain why the past of Chinese advertising was the way it was.
To reach this end, the institutional approach appears an appropriate method.
Seeing an institution as "representing a convention, an arrangement, or an
answer to a problem considered important by the society," the institutional
approach is an effective way to interpret advertising because it focuses on "the
interactive relationship between advertising and society." Successfully
taken by other researchers before, the approach provides a core concept for
this study, around which details in Chinese advertising history are arranged in
a more meaningful and coherent manner than otherwise.
Three Phases of Advertising Growth in China
In this study, the history of Chinese advertising is divided into three phases:
(1) from its embryo in ancient times to its slow evolution toward the beginning
of the twentieth century, (2) the birth of modern advertising in the country in
the 1920s and the vicissitudes it went through in the next half a century, and
(3) the renaissance of advertising industry in the late 1970s.
Embryo of Chinese Advertising
As one of the earliest civilizations in the world, China has a recorded history
of about 3,600 years. If advertising could be defined, in a loose sense, as
any human communication that is intended to persuade or influence buyers in
their purchase decisions, commercial advertising in China, as several studies
have suggested, dates back to about 3,000 years ago.
As mentioned in Shijing (The Book of Odes) compiled during the Spring and Autumn
Period (770-476 BC), there appeared itinerant traders (called xingshang by
Chinese historians) as early as in the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 770
BC), the beginning of the more than two thousand years' feudal society in China.
Ware displays and street hawking were the major forms of advertising then.
In Hanfei Zi, another book written during the Spring and Autumn Period, a story
was told about a man selling his shield and spear in the street. The man first
held his shield in hand, praising it as the strongest in the world and no
weapon, however sharp, can pierce through. Then, he raised his spear, bragging
of it as the sharpest in the world and there is nothing that it cannot pierce
through. Another man standing by asked him, "What if you try your spear on your
own shield?" The seller became speechless. Although this funny story is
usually treated as the origin for a popular Chinese idiom, zixiang maodun, which
means self-contradiction in English, it is a typical example of ware displays
and street hawking in the ancient China.
The emergence of itinerant traders in the Western Zhou Dynasty was by no means
accidental. As the "early formative stage" of the feudal society in China,
the Western Zhou Dynasty was found more developed than the previous slave Shang
Dynasty (about 16th - 11th century BC) in both social productive forces and
social productive relations.
As far as the social productive forces were concerned, the Shang had entered
into the stage of agriculture. Inspirations on oracle bones discovered by
archaeologists carry many records of divinations of harvests and rainfall, thus
indicating that farming occupied an important place in the life of the people.
Glutinous millet is the farm product most frequently mentioned in the
inscriptions. Wheat comes next. Cattle's herding is relegated to a secondary
Meanwhile, the relations of social production in this period were definitely
more advanced than in the Shang. The system of landholding and relations in
production of the Western Zhou was the so-called well-field system. Based on a
division of land into nine squares, the drawing of the land resembled the
Chinese character jing ( ), which means "well" in English. Hence the name. The
well-field system represented a type of feudal ownership and cultivation of land
-- the eight outward squares were cultivated by the peasants for themselves
while the products of the center square were handed over to the ruling lord.
This feudal relation of social production, when compared with the slavery under
the Shang, gave peasants more incentive in their production.
The increased productivity made the division between agriculture and trade
possible and necessary in the Western Zhou Dynasty because the "surplus"
agricultural as well as handicraft products gradually became commodities on the
market. Hence, the emergence of itinerant traders during the Western Zhou.
The itinerating of those peddlers was also closely associated with the social
conditions in China at that time. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, the freemen
below the aristocracy were divided into three categories: shi, the educated
gentry who had special knowledge of rituals and governance, nong, peasants who
were attached to the fields, and shang, the artisans and merchants who commended
special handicraft skills and were engaged in business. The subordination of
the merchant class to the rest was more than theoretical. The control of trade,
particularly state monopoly in salt and later in iron, was an important feature
of the economy of the city state during the Western Zhou Dynasty.
The businessmen living in the dynasty were largely the former subjects of the
previous Shang Dynasty or their descendants. Under the Western Zhou, most of
those people had neither political rights nor their own lands. To make a living,
they became peddlers, traveling from place to place to do business. Looked
down upon in society, they were even often gathered together by government
officials for a dressing down. Trade, contemned by the rich but incapable of
being taken up by the poor, became the major occupation for those whom
historians usually called yin yiming, the former subjects of the Shang Dynasty.
The origin of commerce in China partly accounts for the long-rooted disregard
and neglect for it in the country.
Evolution of Primitive Advertising in Ancient China
During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), in addition to itinerant
traders, there appeared shop owners who used ware displays more often in order
to sell their products. Ware displays usually indicated the types of commodities
sold in the stores. They could be complete commodities, like the lanterns
displayed by lantern shops. They could be part of a commodity, like the black
boots displayed by cerements shops. They could also be the imitation of a
commodity, like the wooden or bronze plaster model for Chinese pharmacies to
stand for all the traditional Chinese herb medications. Based on ware
displays, other advertising forms like shop banners and shop signboards also
began to appear during the Spring and Autumn Period.
Those who used the banners most often in ancient China were wineshop owners.
Since the ancient time, wine has been a popular drink in China, which has become
an important component of Chinese culture. The first record for a wineshop
banner was, again, made by Hanfei Zi (280-233 BC): "A man from the Song Kingdom
opened a wineshop and hung a banner very high and prominent." For centuries,
banners were used by wineshops in China as an advertising token to attract
First appearing during the Spring and Autumn Period, wooden signboards, which
were called zhaopai in Chinese, became very popular in the Tang Dynasty
(618-907), as shops were requested to hang signboards by the government.
Since then, wooden signboards have been the most popular traditional advertising
medium in China. With the passage of time, signboards have become more and more
elaborate, and the characters on the shop signs are usually written by
celebrities, which is still a prevailing practice in China today.
By the Song Dynasty (960-1129), among popular advertising media were high-flying
wine banners, lanterns, pictures, signboards, decorated structures, and
wrappers. The Palace Museum in Beijing houses a piece of famous painting
from the Song Dynasty, titled "the Riverside Scene of the Qingming Festival."
Its vivid depiction of the city streets of the period gives a lively portrayal
of the various kinds of commercial advertisements in use at that time. In this
traditional Chinese painting, one can see the signboards of various shapes and
colors bearing the names of the shops or commodities for sale, such as "Color
and Fragrant Incenses of the Liu's Family," "Cure-all Medicines of the Yang's
Family," and "Silk Shop of the Wang's Family." In the picture, one can also see
the hawkers who became "street players" attracting buyers by using their
distinctive trademarks. A candy seller, for instance, was whistling a bamboo
flute along the streets.
When printing was invented in the Song Dynasty, printed advertisements came into
existence, which was the most significant development in China's advertising
history during the more than two thousand years from the Western Zhou Dynasty
(11th century - 771 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The Shanghai Museum
displays a bronze plaque from that period, which was used by a Liu family's
needle shop in Jinan, Shandong Province, to print wrappers for advertising its
products. Engraved on the middle of the plaque is a rabbit pounding medicine in
a mortar, which is actually a trademark. Above the rabbit is the name of the
shop, "Jinan Liu Family's Needle Shop." On both sides is the line: "Note the
white rabbit at the front door as a mark." Below the rabbit runs the promotional
message: "We purchase high quality steel bars to make our excellent needles.
Prompt delivery assured. Discount for agents. Please remember."
In 1986, a commercial advertisement from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) for a
painting materials store in Changsha was unearthed in Hunan Province, completely
preserved. Printed on sheets of handkerchief-sized paper, the advertisement
carried the message: "A variety of paints and paintbrushes are available. ...
Come and try our goods. You can find our store by the eye-catching sign in red
characters hanging above the door."
By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), engraved printing was significantly improved.
The increasing demands for various books in society led to the competition among
publishers, who also resorted to advertising to promote their books. At the back
of Xixiang Ji (The Western Chamber), a book published in 1498, there was an
advertisement of the publisher, claiming:
We edit according to the classics, redraw the pictures, and print in big
characters. Songs are combined with pictures. When you stay at a tavern, travel
in a boat, or sit leisurely with friends, this book will offer you pleasure from
the beginning to the end. You can sing well and cheer up.
Among various ancient advertising media, antithetical couplets written on
scrolls were widely used for commercial promotion. As antithetical couplets are
terse in wording and pregnant with meaning, they are an extremely popular -- if
not entirely unique -- artistic form in the Chinese culture. Advertisements
written in antithetical couplets can be used to highlight the characteristics of
a business and a commodity. For instance, "Delicious food attracts customers
from the outside heaven; refreshing fragrance lures the immortal from the mount
cave." This antithetical couplet suggests the good quality of the foods served
in a restaurant since in the Chinese culture, tianwai, "outside the heaven,"
refers to "very far" while xian, "the immortal," is believed to live in the cave
of a deep mountain, very difficult to be attracted to come down from there.
In the ancient China, those who resorted to antithetical couplets most often in
their advertising were, again, wineshop owners. Here are two examples: "When
birds smell the mellowness of my wine, they become phoenixes; when fishes eat
the dregs of my wine, they turn into dragons." "You may neither care about this
nor that, you will definitely care about wine; no matter you are rich or poor,
just come and have a drink."
Although advertising in embryo emerged in China quite early, a long-standing
unfavorable social seedbed in the country made its further growth both
impossible and "unnecessary." A brief observation of the fate of commerce in
ancient China may put into perspective the "underdevelopment" of advertising in
Commerce has been existing in China since ancient times, but as an occupation,
it had never been valued, and commercial success had never won respect. Wealth
based on commerce was subject to official taxes, fees, and even
confiscation. The age-long contempt for commerce in ancient China was due to
First comes the physical feature of China, which is largely a continental
country. To the ancient Chinese, their land was the world. This geographical
location made China traditionally an agrarian society. This geographical feature
led to the most outstanding societal feature in the more than two thousand
years' feudal society in China. That is, the immovable nature of land tended to
tie all the family members of several generations together.
The Chinese family was, at one and the same time, an economic unit in which the
members produced and consumed in common, a religious unit that was responsible
for performing the rites required for their well-being of both living and
deceased members of the family ...; and it was a social-security organization
that provided for the care of its needy and aging members.
This traditional family-as-an-economic-unit system, which actually remained
throughout the period prior to the communist revolution in the mid-twentieth
century, to a large extent, accounts for the age-old self-contained and
self-sufficient society in ancient China.
In such a self-sufficient society, neither periodic markets in systems of local
trade nor the development of long-distance trade appeared as very necessary and
important. Even cities or towns, which were usually the seats of prefectural or
county governments, performed primarily political, military, religious, or
administrative functions, and only secondarily served as market centers for
their hinterlands. These cities obtained foodstuffs from the surrounding
countryside mainly by a pattern of redistribution -- collecting local products
as taxes in kind and distributing them through official expenditure. Villages
were linked to cities through xiang, sub-urban administrative jurisdictions. The
rural-urban relationship was again less economic than political.
In the meantime, the long-standing contempt for commerce in ancient China was
largely "contributed" by Confucianism, the dominant philosophical school in the
most part of the imperial China's history. As mentioned previously in the
paper, the forefathers of the businessmen in early Chinese history, who occurred
during the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 771 BC), were those who neither
had political rights nor their own lands. To make a living, they became
peddlers, traveling from place to place. This "tradition" was retained and
even reinforced by Confucianism. In the ideal Confucian scheme of social
stratification, scholars were at the top of the line, followed by farmers, then
by artisans, with merchants in the last place.
In fact, Confucians' disregard for commerce was, to a large extent, due to the
limited geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds of the Chinese. Geographically,
"[f]rom the time of Confucius until the end of the last century, no Chinese
thinkers had the experience of venturing out upon the high seas."
Socioeconomically, "throughout Chinese history, social and economic thinking and
policy have centered around the utilization and distribution of land."
In Confucians' social and economic thinking, there was a distinction between
what were called the "root" and the "branch." The "root" referred to agriculture
and the "branch" to commerce. The reason for this distinction was that
agriculture was concerned with production, whereas commerce was merely concerned
with exchange. In an agrarian country like China, agriculture was the major form
of production, and therefore throughout Chinese history, social and economic
theories, together with government policies, all attempted "to emphasize the
root and slight the branch."
The distinction between agriculture and commerce was made even clearer in Lushi
Chunqiu (Lu's Spring and Autumn Annals), a compendium of various Chinese schools
of philosophy written in the third century BC. In a chapter titled "The Value of
Agriculture," a contrast was made between the mode of life of people who were
engaged in the "root" occupation -- the farmers, and that of those who were
engaged in the "branch" occupation -- the merchants. The farmers were primitive
and simple and therefore always ready to accept commands. They were childlike
and innocent and therefore unselfish. Their material properties were complex and
difficult to move, and therefore they did not abandon their country when it was
in danger. Merchants, on the other hand, were corrupt and therefore not
obedient. They were treacherous and therefore selfish. They had simple
properties that were easy to transport, and therefore they usually abandoned
their country when it was in danger. It was asserted in the chapter, therefore,
that not only was agriculture economically more important than commerce, but the
mode of life of the farmers was also superior to that of the merchants. Herein
lied "the value of agriculture." Based on this view, agriculture was more
respectable than commerce in imperial China since farmers were regarded as
essential in supporting the rulers and the rest of society, and easy to be ruled
at the same time.
In addition to the self-contained and self-sufficient nature of imperial China,
overpopulation left little room for any significant development of commerce in
ancient China. For instance, between 1400 and 1850, the population in China
increased from 60 to 80 million to 430 million. As Lloyd E. Eastman
For every Chinese living in 1400, there were about six in 1850. The social
landscape of the country had thereby transformed. Village grew closer together;
... And all these additional people had to be fed. Millions, therefore, moved
into unsettled regions of the nation, hewing down the forests and plowing the
soil; yet farms became smaller as the per capita land shares dwindled to perhaps
only two-thirds of the average in 1400. Thus during the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
the single most important factor affecting China's economy and social
institutions, the very way that the Chinese lived their lives, was its large and
While the population was growing undesirably fast, the technology of Chinese
agriculture remained largely unchanged for centuries. It was noticed that
the methods and tools used by China's peasants during the Qing Dynasty
[1644-1911] were almost identical to those employed by their ancestors in the
fifth century, and perhaps even earlier.
As one of the two last dynasties in Chinese imperial history, the Ming
(1368-1644) had began to contain the germs of capitalism in its mode of
production. But the burden of overpopulation had obviously hindered its
development of commerce and trade.
From the above observation, it can be clearly seen that the contempt for
commerce in ancient China was historically, economically, and ideologically
deep-rooted. In such a land, there was no "fertile seedbed" prerequisite to the
growth of advertising, which is "an arm of business."
Birth of Modern Advertising in China
Although the primitive form of advertising had existed in China for more than
two thousand years, the notion of modern advertising was entirely foreign to the
Chinese. Here, by modern advertising, the author means the "paid nonpersonal
communication from an identified sponsor using mass media to persuade or
influence an audience." As Thomas Gorman and Jeffery Muir of the China
Consultants International observed,
Although advertising was practiced in a variety of forms around the turn of the
century by both international and local Chinese companies in China, the concept
of advertising per se was foreign, introduced only in recent Chinese history;
and first popularized by foreign tobacco and petroleum companies.
In fact, the foreign idea of advertising had been put into practice in China in
the middle of the nineteenth century. The first modern media that carried
advertisements in the country were three British-run English-language newspapers
in Hong Kong: the Friend of China and Hongkong Gazette (1842-59), the Hongkong
Register (1844-59), and the China Mail (1845-1911).
In the second half of the nineteenth century, more than three hundred
foreign-run newspapers and magazines were circulated in China, with most of them
published in Shanghai, the commercial center of the country. Many of these
publications were in Chinese, which became the major modern media for
advertising in the country. The first Chinese-language newspapers carrying
advertisements were Zhongwai Xinbao (Chinese and Foreign New Paper) launched in
Hong Kong in 1858, and Shanghai Xinbao (Shanghai New Paper) founded in Shanghai
The first Chinese magazine carrying advertisements was the British-run Xia'er
Guanzhen (Chinese Serial) (1853-56) in Hong Kong. The magazines that carried
most advertisements in the early twentieth century's China were Dongfang Zhazhi
(Eastern Miscellany) (1901-41), Funu Zhazhi (Women's Magazine) (1915-?), and
Kuaile Jiating (Happy Home) (1935-1945), all published in Shanghai.
The emergence of foreign advertising in China since the mid-nineteenth century
was by no means accidental. A brief review of the Chinese history will help
clarify this point. While the Western Zhou (11th century - 771 BC) marked the
beginning of feudalism in China, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) brought in the
last phase of feudalism for the country. Around the middle of the Ming
Dynasty, China's centuries-old "natural" economy, which consisted of agriculture
and the handicraft industry, was exposed for the first time to capitalist means
Although China under the Ming was no longer as static a country as it used to
be, its rate of change and development was much slower than that of the European
countries in the same period. While at the beginning of the Ming era China was
said to be still ahead of Europe in most fields, the picture was to change
considerably by the end of the empire. It is against this background that the
arrival of the Europeans should be considered, "with all its significant
portents for the future of China and its relations with the world." As
recorded in history, Portuguese trading ships first arrived in China in 1516,
and inaugurated a sea route from Europe to China. Spanish traders, who came in
1557, were followed by the Dutch in 1606 and the English in 1637.
If the Ming Dynasty had prolonged, it might have involved more active economic
and commercial contacts with the outside world. Unfortunately, history did not
write that way. The rulers of the succeeding Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the last
feudal empire in Chinese history, threw up a resistance to the early capitalist
enterprises. The new regime placed limits on the size of handicraft factories
and imposed burdensome taxes on merchants. In contrast to the preceding Ming
Dynasty, during which China had somewhat actively sought foreign trade and
dispatched treasure-filled ships to other parts of Asia and to Africa, the Qing
government instituted a closed-door foreign trade policy. This renewed spirit of
isolationism was perhaps more in line with China's historical tendency for
autarky. For the native economy, however, a profound challenge remained -- to
feed and employ a vast population that had managed to double in size between the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
During the period from 1840, when the Opium War (1840-42) began, to 1919, when
the May Fourth Movement started, the Qing Dynasty ended and the Republic of
China began. It was a period during which the imperialism from abroad and the
feudalism at home changed China into a semicolonial and semifeudal country.
After gaining control of India, Britain, the most developed capitalist country
in the world then, immediately targeted China as its next prey. Since cotton
textiles and woolens produced in Britain were not well received in China, the
British at first had to ship a vast amount of silver to China in exchange for
tea, silk and other products. Later on, the British smuggled large quantities of
opium into China. As the number of opium smokers increased substantially, Qing
officials became more and more corrupt, and the army lost its fighting ability.
Afraid that his position might be eroded, the emperor sent Lin Zexu (1785-1850)
as an imperial commissioner to Guangzhou (Canton) to ban the opium smuggling.
Lin ordered all opium confiscated and publicly destroyed. He then ordered that
Sino-British trade be restored only on the condition that British merchants
cease smuggling opium. To protect its merchants, Britain dispatched warships in
June 1840 to attack the coastal areas of Guangdong Province, which led to the
Intimidated by British gunboats, the Qing government dismissed Lin and sent
another official to negotiate peace with the British army. In August 1842 the
Qing government signed a humiliating document known as the Sino-British Treaty
of Nanjing. This treaty, the first unequal treaty China had signed with a
foreign country, stipulated that China open five ports for trade, cede Hong Kong
to the British, and pay an indemnity of 21 million silver dollars. In the
meantime, the tariff on British goods also would be subject to negotiations
between the two countries.
In 1844, the United States and France forced the Qing government to sign the
Sino-American Treaty of Wangxia and the Sino-French Treaty of Huangpu. Through
these two treaties, the United States and France acquired all the privileges
provided to Britain in the Treaty of Nanjing and its supplementary documents. In
addition the Americans gained a special privilege allowing them to send warships
to Chinese ports for the protection of their merchants, and to build churches
and hospitals in the five ports of trade.
After the Second Opium War in 1857, China lost not only more territories, but
also more sovereignty to Britain, France, Russia, and the United States. The
aggressive influence of foreign countries spread from the coast to the interior,
and the Qing government was subjected to more and more control by foreign
As newspapers were the most modern mass medium at that time, a number of
missionaries and businessmen began to run newspapers in China, which also turned
out to be the most important medium for advertising in China for many years to
come. It was against such a social background that the foreign modern
advertising came to China. Probably, no term is more appropriate than what
Michael H. Anderson called "advertising imperialism" to describe the foreign
advertising in China at that time because the occurrence of foreign advertising
in China then was a direct result of the "victories" some Western countries had
achieved with their gunboats in the mid-nineteenth century.
In the meantime, modern advertising in China at the turn of the century was
overwhelmingly for foreign companies and foreign products. This dominance of
foreign advertising at that time was not only limited to newspapers and
magazines. In this respect, Xu Baiyi, a senior advertising practitioner in
China, whose own advertising career dates back to 1923 in Shanghai, provided
a large amount of evidence.
For instance, China's first two modern billboards belonged to the
British-American Tobacco Company, and were erected in Shanghai -- one on the
roof of a Nanjing Road (the commercial center in the metropolis) tea house and
another facing the Huangpu Park at the side of the Bund. Soon afterwards,
countless sites were covered with rows of billboards, many of which advertised
U.S. motion pictures.
Posters introducing Western medicines were pasted everywhere, both in urban and
rural areas. These posters were usually brought in by foreign companies from
their home countries.
The first neon sign (for the Royal Typewriters) was placed in the window of the
Evens Book Company on Shanghai's Nanjing Road in 1926. China's largest neon sign
at that time, erected by the U.S.-owned Claude Neon Lights, was the first of two
memorable signs to occupy a site opposite Shanghai's Great World amusement
center. The sign featured a large clock and an animated sequence in which a Ruby
Queen cigarette seemed to jump back into the pack.
On the sides and tops of streetcars, foreign cigarettes and other imported
consumer goods such as Bovril, a British-made beverage, competed for advertising
space with local gambling houses.
Many companies also circulated newsletters, leaflets, and other advertising
mailings. British-American Tobacco Company's monthly Beiqing Yanbao promoted the
company's cigarettes as well as publicized the Western political system. Bayer
Pharma Company published a medical journal, Tiande (God's Virtue) Medical News,
and distributed 100,000 copies of Jiating Yishen (Family Doctor), a handbook
providing information on common illnesses and available remedies. A free
publication offered by another pharmaceutical company frequently contained
English words. Eastman Kodak published Kodak Photography.
Ironically, the modern advertising media and skills, though introduced by the
Westerners, were soon well received by the Chinese. Even Zhengzhi Guanbao
(Political Official Gazette), established by the government of the Qing Dynasty
in 1907, became the first Chinese government newspaper that had ever run
advertisements. The competing Shen Bao (Shanghai Gazette) and Xinwen Bao
(News Gazette), which eventually became Chinese-owned, were the two most
successful and longest-running newspapers that carried advertisements in the
early twentieth-century China.
The acceptance of Western advertising techniques and skills in China indicated
an important change in the Chinese attitudes toward the West. For more than two
thousand years, China, regarding itself as the center of the world (This is what
Zhongguo, the name of "China" literally means in the Chinese language) had been
self-complacent and closed-door, having little contact with the Western world.
While all the major European countries had successfully achieved an Industrial
Revolution before the late nineteenth century, imperial China was still
blindly sticking to its feudalism.
However, the crude reality of the Opium War and the unequal treaties afterwards
shocked the courtiers and officials to a realization of their wrong impression
of the West, and of the need to strengthen China. This soon led to the
"Self-Strengthening Movement" in 1860s, and the "Western Learning Movement"
toward the end of the nineteenth century. Both movements were guided by the
principle that China should "learn the superior barbarian techniques to control
It was uncertain as to how many Chinese people were determined "to control the
barbarians," but it was surely the national mentality since the Opium War that
China had fallen behind the West in technology. The quick acceptance of modern
advertising skills from Westerners was actually guided by such thinking.
The 1930s was a golden age of modern advertising in China. In addition to
newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters, neon signs, streetcars, booklets,
calendars, the list of advertising media at that time also included radio
broadcasting. Radio broadcasting in China dates back to a short-lived
fifty-watt U.S. operation in 1922. In 1927, the Sun Company, a Shanghai
department store, established a station that broadcast market news, current
events, and Chinese music. By 1936, Shanghai had thirty-six privately owned
Chinese stations, four foreign-run stations, one station run by the municipal
government, and one run by the Ministry of Communications. Radio was the
least-used new advertising medium, but advertisers purchased spots and program
time on nearly every station. The U.S.-owned Henningsen Produce Company even ran
newspaper advertisements that announced the air times of their radio commercials
for Hazelwood Ice Cream, boosting sales immediately.
The most important benchmark in the growth of modern advertising industry in
China was the emergence of advertising agencies in the early twentieth century.
Again, introduced from the West and much like their Western counterparts,
Chinese advertising agencies evolved from media brokers. Towards the 1930s,
there were around twenty agencies in Shanghai, the commercial center and the
base of advertising in China.
The first modern agency was the China Commercial Advertising Agency (CCAA),
founded in 1926 by C. P. Ling, the U.S.-educated "father of Chinese
advertising." Together with Ling's agency, the Carl Crow, Inc. from the United
States, the Millington Ltd. from Britain, and the Consolidated National
Advertising Company, another Chinese-run agency, became the dominant "Big Four"
in Shanghai during 1930s. Before 1949 when the People's Republic was founded,
around one hundred advertising agencies were in operation in Shanghai, with a
few others in Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou. All these agencies added luster
to the golden age of advertising in China. But this age was short-lived,
truncated by World War II and the civil war of the 1940s.
Chinese advertising's golden age in the 1930s was preceded by the golden age of
the national industries during the 1910s and 1920s. In the aftermath of the 1911
revolution, which overthrew the last empire in Chinese history, spontaneous
capitalism had begun to prosper in China. Between 1912 and 1920, Chinese
industry achieved an annual growth rate of 13.8%, whereas during the 1912-49
period as a whole it amounted to no more than 5.5%. The golden age of the
national industries gave an impetus to the growth of modern advertising in
Chinese advertising's golden age also more or less coincided with an era now
known in China as the Second Revolutionary Civil War (1927-1937). Actually,
these were comparatively quiet years, following a period of nearly constant
civil strife that had troubled China since 1921.
In 1919, the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) had been swept into office on the
wave of fierce patriotism that followed student-led protest (the May Fourth
Movement) over provisions in the Treaty of Versailles, and aspects of feudalism
and imperialism (especially the restoration of Japanese "privileges" in Shandong
Province) which continued after World War I.
The Communists, meanwhile, had benefited from an extraordinary increase in the
number of industrial workers in China -- up from around a half million when the
Bourgeois Revolution toppled the Qing government in 1911 to two million in 1919.
During China's First Revolutionary Civil War (1921-1927), both the Nationalists
and the Communists agreed on a policy of strikes and boycotts that ultimately
led to the dispossession by force of the propertied class and foreigners.
However, a rift developed within the Kuomintang over the direction and extent of
future reforms, leading, by 1927, to a purge of leftists and Communists by
Chiang Kai-shek and the party's moderate and right-wing factions. Subsequently,
the Kuomintang achieved a degree of stability by instituting various internal
reforms and establishing more equal relations with foreign powers. Far from
being eliminated, however, the Communist threat intensified during this period
with the establishment of a People's Army and the Rural Revolutionary Bases.
During World War II, the Nationalists and the Communists once again put aside
their differences in a spirit of cooperation. Many newspapers were moved to
Chongqing, Sichuan Province, where the Nationalist government was temporarily
located. The major newspapers published there included Zhongyang Ribao (Central
Daily News), Dagong Bao (Impartial Gazette), Saodang Bao (Mopping-up News), and
Xinmin Bao (New People News). All these newspapers carried some
Meanwhile, the major newspapers run by the Communist Party of China also started
to carry advertisements, which included Xin Zhonghua Bao (New China News),
Jiefang Ribao (Liberation Daily), Xinhua Ribao (New China Daily) and Jin-Cha-Ji
Ribao (Shanxi-Chaha'er-Hebei Daily). The Chinese Communist party seemed to
have no serious ideological objections to advertising in the period prior to the
establishment of the People's Republic (roughly from the early 1920s to the late
1940s). What the Communist newspapers only accepted, however, were "decent and
But on the whole, the infant modern advertising industry in China suffered from
World War II. For instance, when Shanghai was under Japanese occupation, all the
major advertising agencies there were forced to cease operation. A few lingering
agencies were operated only to promote Japanese products. With the defeat of
the Japanese -- their common enemy -- in 1945 came an immediate renewal of
internal hostilities between the Communists and Nationalists. This led to the
"Third Civil War" from 1945 to 1949 before the Communists came to power.
It is clear from the above analysis that although a market system gradually came
into being in China's major urban areas during those decades before 1949, the
seedbed for advertising in the country was still far from being fertile. For one
thing, even those most developed areas were no more than a seller's market. For
another, the wars year after year had drained the national economy and hindered
Advertising in the Three Post-Liberation Decades
During the first few years after 1949, the Chinese government allowed
advertising to exist though foreign participation was virtually ended. The only
exception for foreign advertising was that carried in some foreign-run
Chinese-language publications, which continued into the early 1960s.
In the early 1950s, the Chinese government was devoted to rebuilding the
war-torn national economy. Its extensive use of billboards and neon signs in
Shanghai that year gave some encouragement to the advertising industry, which
had been waiting to see what place, if any, it would have in the post-liberation
China. After January 1956, all the remaining advertising agencies became
completely state-owned. The 108 agencies in Shanghai, for instance, were merged
into the state-run Shanghai Advertising Corporation.
In December 1957, the first Conference of Advertising Workers in Socialist
Countries was held in Prague, Czech Republic. Dominated by the theme that
"socialism needs advertising," this conference, attended by representatives from
thirteen socialist countries of that time, gave an impetus to China's
advertising. Accordingly, socialist advertising's aims are to influence
demand for goods by educating consumers' tastes, to help consumers by offering
them information about the most rational ways of consumption, and to improve
service to the consumer in the retail trade.
Advertising business boomed for a while in China, slumped during the hard time
around the early 1960s, and then picked up again. In 1962, for example, the
former Shanghai Advertising Corporation was changed into the Shanghai
Advertising and Packaging Corporation, and "kept busy promoting national
products, and by advertising on the packaging of products for exports."
It is evident from the above review that advertising was never officially banned
during those post-revolution years. Instead, it was "encouraged" occasionally.
Nevertheless, the seedbed for advertising during this period was more barren
than fertile, which made any significant growth of the industry impossible. The
major reason for this barrenness was the economic structure in the country.
After a brief and turbulent period of a market-planned economy with mixed
private-socialized property in the early 1950s (the political equivalent of
which was Mao's "New Democracy"), The Mao leadership adopted Stalin's model
of a centrally planned command economy with comprehensive state-collective
property. The installation of this model was completed in 1956, toward the end
of China's First Five-year Plan (1953-1957). The next ten years from 1956
to 1965 saw public ownership of the means of production fully established, and
centrally planned economy completely dominating in the country.
Although the growth rate of China's economy from 1949 to the eve of the Cultural
Revolution (1966-1976) was relatively high when compared with many other
countries, the Soviet model turned out to be ill suited to the Chinese
conditions. The Stalinist vigorous central-planning, together with an
overemphasis on capital-intensive heavy industrialization at the expense of
agriculture, produced many problems for China: sluggish agricultural output and
labor productivity; sectoral disproportions; shortages of consumer goods and low
consumption; retarded services; urban unemployment; and rigid and
overcentralized bureaucratic structures and procedures. In short, the
growth of national strength in the absolute term had been quite slow, and the
people had not derived much in terms of material benefits.
It can be noticed from the above discussion that the Chinese government's plans
to impose strict control on production, consumption, and prices left little room
for advertising's existence. As the years went by, the control became tighter
and tighter, which shrank the niche for advertising's survival all the time. As
Nian-tzu Wang put it,
Under conditions of centralized purchase and allocation as well as general
scarcity, advertising was hardly required to push sales. Moreover, in a time of
general scarcity, the provision of services such as marketing was tantamount to
granting a favor.
However, the hardest blows to advertising in China came from the Cultural
Revolution. In addition to the vigorous centrally planned economy mentioned
previously, the blows were mainly ideological. First, judged by Mao's policy,
which stemmed from Marxist tradition, advertising was a societal waste, not
adding any values to commodities.
What was more, the traditional contempt for and negligence of commerce in China,
which was so familiar to those Chinese proletarians, went to the extreme when
the Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao. All service industries were
associated with servitude. For advertising, the fate was even worse. It was
linked to capitalist practice, labeled and blamed as "bourgeois commercialism"
and a "symbol of capitalism" designed to deceive the masses and advocate
When the Cultural Revolution began, neon signs were first broken by "Red
Guards." All shop windows were pasted with "big character posters" and all shop
names were changed. There were only political slogans on billboards. Agencies
that had managed to hang on during the early 1960s were reduced to producing
political posters, and finally closed.
Nevertheless, "advertisements never completely disappeared during the
period." As Lauren A. Swanson reported, "even the People's Daily (Rimin
Ribao) -- the official Communist Party newspaper -- printed industrial product
and raw materials advertisements, among others, every year throughout the entire
period of the Cultural Revolution, albeit in very reduced numbers."
Renaissance of Chinese Advertising Since 1979
In early 1979, advertising, which had almost entirely disappeared in China for
more than ten years, came back to life, and has been flourishing ever since.
This renaissance was a direct result of the dramatic social changes in China,
preluded by a few articles published in China's leading newspapers and
magazines. On January 14, 1979, an editorial appeared in the Shanghai-based
Wenhui Gazette, calling for "restoring the good name of advertising."
Seeing advertising as a "means of promoting trade, earning foreign exchange, and
broadening the masses' horizons," the editorial encouraged China's mass media to
carry foreign as well as domestic advertisements. This viewpoint was really a
breakthrough in the late 1970s. The editorial, actually the first call for the
return of advertising in China, was immediately supported by other official
In a March 1979 issue, the Beijing Review, a leading English-language weekly,
carried another editorial, claiming that
As there is no private enterprises' cutthroat competition in China, there is no
need for ads or a big advertising industry as in capitalist countries. But this
does not mean that there is no need for ads [in a socialist country].
Later, in an editorial published in the China Daily, a national
English-language newspaper, advertising -- once labeled as a capitalist
instrument -- was referred to as a bridge connecting the socialist economy and
the people's life, as a force to guide consumption and production, and as an
important role in China's ambitious plan for modernization. Although all
these editorials were presented as "personal" opinions, they were actually
signals from the central government, preparing the public for an impending thaw
of feelings regarding advertising.
On January 14, 1979, the Tianjin Daily ran an advertisement for the Tianjin
Toothpaste Factory. This was the first advertisement in China since the Cultural
Revolution. But this renaissance of the advertising industry largely began in
Shanghai, the focal point of the golden age of China's advertising in the 1930s.
On January 28, 1979, the Liberation Daily, another Shanghai-based newspaper,
carried advertisements for several domestic products. On the same day, the
Shanghai Television Station showed a commercial for a Chinese-made tonic wine,
first time ever in the history of China's television. On March 5, 1979, the
Shanghai Broadcasting Station broadcast a radio commercial for a local photo
studio. On the fifteenth of the same month, the Wenhui Gazette carried an
advertisement for the Swiss-made Rado watch, the first foreign advertisement
that occurred in China after the Cultural Revolution.
In the last twenty years, more and more media in China have started to carry
advertising. In mid-1998, for example, 2,912 television stations, 880 radio
stations, 2,264 newspapers, and 3,877 magazines were involved in advertising
While the mass media opened up to advertising, advertising agencies began to
reopen in China. The Shanghai Advertising Corporation, the last company to cease
operation when advertising was banned during the Cultural Revolution, first
reopened in the late 1978. In 1979, only ten advertising agencies operated in a
few major cities; by mid-1998, however, 29,650 advertising agencies, big or
small, had operated in China, including hundreds of foreign-owned and
Social changes in the early post-Mao years
The dramatic revival of the Chinese advertising industry was an inevitable
consequence of the social changes in China. Just as the political swing to the
extreme left meant the demise of the advertising industry, a swing back to the
right led to its reoccurrence.
The death of Mao Zedong, late chairman of the Communist Party of China (on
September 9, 1976), was a turning point in China's politics. Mao, had been the
most powerful political figure in the People's Republic of China, affecting
decisively the policies regarding China's political, economic, and social
life. He died at a time when China was suffering from political instability
and economic stagnation. A decade of turmoil of the Cultural Revolution he had
personally initiated plunged the country into a historical catastrophe. The
people lost confidence in the Party's leadership, which itself was divided by
factions and conflicts.
Within months of Mao's death, a coalition formed in the Politburo, which
quickly overthrew the "Gang of Four," the leading force behind the Cultural
Revolution. Hence, large-scale turbulent class struggles of a mass
character in the main came to an end.
During the two years following the overthrow of the "Gang of Four" -- "a time
of stocktaking and soul searching," Deng Xiaoping, who was accused of being
the "No. 2 capitalist roader" during the Cultural Revolution, gradually achieved
primacy in leadership. As the driving force for the post-Mao reform, Deng
encouraged people to "emancipate the mind" and to "seek truth from facts" so as
to break away from the politics characterized by the Cultural Revolution.
His maxim, "practice is the sole criterion of truth," characterizes the new age
and underlines its suspicion of dogma. On May 11, 1978, an article, "Practice Is
the Sole Criterion for Testing Truth," was published in the Beijing-based
Guangming Daily. This article initiated a process of demythologizing Mao, and
paved the way for further political emancipation.
Mao once said, "No destruction, no construction." Ironically, the
re-evaluation of his political ideas and the assessment of his historical role
became the first step in emancipating the minds of party members and the general
public. Among the many Maoist ideologies that the Party repudiated and abandoned
was the theory of "continuously conducting class struggles."
Economic development set as a national goal
With the clearance of political barriers like the "Gang of Four," and the
emancipation of Chinese people's minds, Deng Xiaoping, "a staunch nationalist
who sought to restore China's wealth and power," was ready to pursue his
lifetime goal -- to strengthen the Chinese nation-state. Deng's vision was
specified in the landmark Third Plenum of the Eleventh Party Congress held in
December 1978, in which the Central Party Committee decided to shift the
emphasis of the Party's work from Mao's "class struggle" to a "Four
Modernizations" program. From then on, to achieve the basic modernization of
industry, agriculture, science and technology, and national defense by the turn
of the century has been an overwhelming national goal in China. If
"politics was in command" during Mao's era, it is no exaggeration that
"modernization is in command" during Deng's years.
During the late 1970s and the early 1980s, China experienced a series of
far-reaching reforms, which were regarded as a second revolution in their
significance and consequences.
The economic reforms were set in the broader framework of a new economic
strategy, which was aimed to replace the overwhelming role played by capital
accumulation during Mao's era with greater balance of the productive forces. To
the extent possible, human initiative and effectiveness in productive activity,
together with accelerated technological progress, were being substituted for
capital as the motive force of economic growth and development. This in turn
implied a need to develop material incentives and rewards for the human actors,
a diminution of the share of accumulation in national income in favor of
consumption, sharp improvement in the relative performance of the agricultural
sector, substantive improvements in education and technical training, and an
increase in investment and trade in the international sphere. The focus of
planning in the reform period was not on issuing production orders to individual
enterprises, but on assuring that these macroeconomic objectives were met.
According to the "Decision on the Reform of the Economic System" made by the
central committee of the Communist Party of China in the early 1980s, the
essence of the reform in industry is the transfer of decision-making authority
from supervisory-administrative organs to producing enterprises.
The direction of the reforms was to free decision-making at the level of the
producing unit as far as possible, while reserving for state planning the
central role in determining such macroeconomic parameters as major national
investments, sectoral balance, economic growth and structure, and the overall
direction of the economy. By the mid-1980s, China had moved toward a mixture of
central planning and market guidance for enterprises.
One of the important tasks of the economic reform is to allow full play to the
positive role of the market mechanism. Consequently, mandatory planning has been
replaced by "guidance planning." That is, the scope of prices set by the state
is be reduced, and the scope of prices determined by the market expanded.
Moreover, even mandatory planning and state-set prices should take full account
of market responses and the role of the law of value. The overall direction is
"the state regulates the market and the market guides the enterprises."
Adoption of the market mechanism
Economic reforms in China have resulted in the emergence of a two-tier
plan/market system, which indicates a substantial change in the economic
development strategy in the country. In the first three decades of the People's
Republic, the dominant view among the Chinese leadership held that the socialist
economy was a planned economy, which had nothing to do with market mechanisms.
It was even a common belief then that the difference of socialism from
capitalism lies precisely in replacing the market with the plan. With the
passage of time, however, the deficiencies of this economic structure became
more and more apparent.
Therefore, as soon as Deng Xiaoping had come to power, the overemphasis on
central planning was criticized as simplistic and having a negative effect on
China's economic life. In the late 1970s, the post-Mao Chinese leadership
declared for the first time that a socialist economy is a commodity economy
planned on the basis of public ownership. It must conscientiously follow and use
the law of value and pay due attention to the important functions of
economic levers and market mechanism. This view was based on the argument that
"the commodity economy is an unavoidable state in the development of a socialist
With the acceptance of the market regulation, commodities are subject to
multiple allocation mechanisms, including various administrative channels and
the market. Even for particular state-owed industrial enterprises, part of each
input and output may be allocated administratively, and part obtained or sold on
the market. The same good may carry very different prices, depending on the
allocation mechanism it is subject to. The share of the market in total supply
and demand varies for different products and enterprises. This combination
of central planning and market mechanism is what "building socialism with
Chinese characteristics" actually means.
Together with the emphasis on the role of market mechanism in economic
development, advertising, an integral "institution within the master institution
of the market" and a catalyst in a market-driven economy, naturally
and easily came back to life in China. Since the late 1970s, advertising has no
longer been treated as a "capitalist token" as during the Cultural Revolution.
Instead, it has been officially called "an accelerator for the economic
development in China."
Figure 2 briefly summarizes the revival of Chinese advertising reviewed above.
As it illustrates, the economic reform, which aims at speeding up the economic
development in China, has justified the introduction of market mechanism to the
Chinese economic system. Consequently, the market mechanism has justified the
reoccurrence of advertising in the country. In return, advertising is supposed
to have contributed to China's economic development.
Figure 2 The Revival of Advertising in China
[--- Pict Graphic Goes Here ---]
To sum up, the embryo, birth, and renaissance of advertising in China, as
examined in this study, are mainly influenced and shaped by the changes of its
social seedbed. In the more than 2,000 years' Chinese history reviewed, only the
seedbed the market economy of the last twenty years has provided is fertile for
advertising, hence its unprecedented growth during this short period of time. It
is also predicable that so long as the market economy grows in China,
advertising should continue to grow in this new market in the years ahead.
"Kodak Snaps up Prime Ad Site in Beijing," Advertising Age, 1 January 1998.
Online edition. URL: http://ads.adage.com/search97cgi/s97-cgi [Available: 25
Fan Lubin, "Chinese Advertising Industry in 1997 Seen from Figures," Xiandai
Guanggao [Modern Advertising] (2, 1998), 9.
 Paul Parsons, "Marketing Revolution Hits Staid Giants _ While in China,
Advertising Blooms like a Hundred Flowers," Advertising Age, 19 July 1993, 18.
 William Leiss, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally, Social Communication in
Advertising: Persons, Products and Images of Well-being, 2nd ed. (Ontario:
Nelson Canada, 1990).
Raymond Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: NLB, 1980), 185.
Charles H. Sandage, "Some Institutional Aspects of Advertising," Journal of
Advertising 1 (1, 1972). Reprinted in Advertising in Society: Classic and
Contemporary Readings on Advertising's Role in Society, eds., Roxanne Hovland
and Gary B. Wilcox (Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books, 1989), 4.
James W. Carey, "Advertising: An Institutional Approach," in The Role of
Advertising, eds., C. H. Sandage and V. Fryburger (Homewood, IL: Richard D.
Irwin, 1960). Reprinted in Hovland and Wilcox, Advertising in Society, 11.
 Kim B. Rotzoll and James E. Haefner, with Steven R. Hall, Advertising in
Contemporary Society: Perspectives toward Understanding, 3rd ed. (Urbana and
Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 15-32.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 16.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 18.
James D. Startt and Wm. David Sloan, Historical Methods in Mass Communication
(Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1989), 20.
Rotzoll and Haefner, with Hall, Advertising in Contemporary Society, 57.
Roxanne Hovland and Gary B. Wilcox, eds., Advertising in Society: Classic and
Contemporary Readings on Advertising's Role in Society (Lincolnwood, IL: NTC
Business Books, 1989), 1.
Rotzoll and Haefner, with Hall, Advertising in Contemporary Society, 15-89;
Hovland and Wilcox, Advertising in Society, 1-37.
 Conventionally, China's recorded history is believed to have begun in the
Shang Dynasty, about 3,600 to 3,700 years ago. For a detailed description of
this period of Chinese history, see Chien Po-tsan, Shao Hsun-cheng, and Hu Hua,
Concise History of China (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1984), 1-4.
For details of the emergence of advertising in China, see Sun Youwei, Guanggao
Xue [Advertising] (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 1991), 37-38; Xu Baiyi, "The
Role of Advertising in China," Working paper, Department of Advertising,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989, 4.
K. L. Kiu, 100 Ancient Chinese Fables (Beijing: China Translation Company for
Publications in Foreign Countries, and Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1991), 112.
Witold Rodzinski, A History of China, vol. 1 (Oxford and New York: Pergamon
Press, 1979), 21.
Chien, Shao, and Hu, Concise History, 9-10.
Hsu Cho-Yun, Hsi Chou Shih [A History of Western Zhou] (Taipei: Lien Ching Ch'u
Pan Shih Yeh Kung Ssu, 1984), 277.
William Watson, China Before the Han Dynasty (New York: Praeger, 1961), 114;
Cho-Yun Hsu and Katheryn M. Linduff, Western Chou Civilization (New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1988), 154.
Watson, Han Dynasty, 114.
Hsu, Hsi Chou Shih, 109-110.
Zhang Xin, "Anecdotes in Chinese Ancient Commercial Advertising." Guanggao
Baokan Wenzhai [Advertising Digest from the Press] (6, 1993), 1.
Sun, Guanggao Xue, 38.
The importance of wine in Chinese culture can be partly but clearly seen in
classic Chinese literature. Wine is so frequently mentioned in both classic
Chinese novels and traditional Chinese poems, which made a fascinating literary
topic and triggered perennial inspiration. For instance, Li Bai (701-762), one
of the most famous and talented poets in ancient China, held the view that "Oh!
drink your fill in high delight, And never leave your wine-cup empty in
moonlight" and composed many well-known poems about wine drinking. Even in
contemporary daily conversations, one may still hear the Chinese say, "When
drinking with a bosom friend, a thousand cups will still be too little."
Xu, "Role of Advertising," 2.
Sun, Guanggao Xue, 40.
Liu Linqing and Chen Jixiu, Guanggao Guanli [Advertising Management] (Beijing:
China Finance and Economics Press, 1989), 39-41; Sun, Guanggao Xue, 39-43; Xu,
"Role of Advertising," 2.
Liu and Chen, Guanggao Guanli, 41.
"Ads Dating Back 680 Years Excavated," China Daily (Beijing), 11 March 1986, 3.
Liu and Chen, Guanggao Guanli, 41-42.
Li Yong and Li Qingbo, "Antithetical Couplets in Wine Advertising," Baokan
Guanggao Wenzhai [Advertising Digest from the Press] (6, 1993), 2-3.
 Robert L. Worden, Andrea M. Savade, and Knoald E. Dolan, eds., China, a
Country Study, 4th ed. (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1988), 109.
Lloyd E. Eastman, Family, Fields, and Ancestors: Constancy and Change in
China's Social and Economic History, 1550-1949 (New York and Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1988), 16.
John W. Haeger, ed., Crisis and Prosperity in Sung China (Tucson, AZ: The
University of Arizona Press, 1975), 41.
Brian Hook, ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China, 2nd ed. (Cambridge and
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 301.
In an agrarian society, land means not only wealth, but also social status.
Hsu, Hsi Chou Shih, 109-10.
Worden, Savada, and Dolan, China, a Country Study, 109.
Fung Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, ed. Derk Bodde (New York:
The Free Press, and London: Collier-Macmillan Ltd., 1948, reprint, 1968), 16-17.
Marie-Claire Bergere, The Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie 1911-1937,
trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989),
Eastman, Family, Field, and Ancestors, 1.
Chien, Shao, and Hu, Concise History, 75.
For a detailed discussion of the "fertile seedbed" for advertising, see Rotzoll
and Haefner, with Hall, Advertising in Contemporary Society, 15-32.
Charles H. Sandage, Roads to be Taken: The Intellectual Odyssey of Charles H.
Sandage (Lomoni, IA: Center for the Study of Free Enterprise and
Entrepreneurship, Graceland College, 1993), 169, quoted in John D. Leckenby,
"Book Review," Journal of Advertising 22 (December 1993), 120.
William Wells, John Burnett, and Sandra Moriarty, Advertising Principles and
Practice, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992), 10.
Thomas Gorman and Jeffery S. Muir, Advertising and Selling to the People's
Republic of China, 2nd ed. (Hong Kong: China Consultants, International Hong
Kong Ltd., 1984), 1, quoted from Kim B. Rotzoll, "Advertising in China," Working
paper, Department of Advertising, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Frank H. H. King and Prescott Clarke, A Research Guide to China-coast
Newspapers, 1822-1911 (Cambridge, MA: The East Asian Research Center, Harvard
University, 1965), 20-21.
Won Ho Chang, Mass Media in China: The History and the Future (Ames, IA: Iowa
State University Press, 1989), 7.
Xu, "Role of Advertising," 6.
Ding Ganlin et al., Jianming Zhongguo Xinwen Shi [A concise history of Chinese
press] (Fuzhou, Fujian: Fujian People's Publishing House, 1985), 38-39; Xu,
"Role of Advertising," 6; idem, Marketing to China, xxii.
Chien, Shao, and, Hu, Concise History, 75.
Xu, Marketing to China, xvii.
Chien, Shao, and Hu, Concise History, 76.
Xu, Marketing to China, xviii.
Chang, Mass Media in China, 6.
For detail of the criticism on advertising imperialism, see Michael H.
Anderson, Madison Avenue in Asia: Politics and Transnational Advertising (London
and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1984), 44-49.
Kim B. Rotzoll, "Preface," in Xu, "Role of Advertising."
These few paragraphs are adapted from Xu, Marketing to China, xxii-xxiii.
Liu and Chen, Guanggao Guanli, 47.
Ibid., 48; Xu, Marketing to China, xxi.
Robert McHenry, ed., "Industry Revolution," in The New Encyclopaedia
Britannica, vol. 6, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1993),
Hook, Cambridge Encyclopedia, 224.
Xu, Marketing to China, xxii-xxiii.
 Ibid., xxii-xxiv.
Bergere, Chinese Bourgeoisie, 63.
Sun, Guanggao Xue, 49.
Liu and Chen, Guanggao Guanli, 55.
Rotzoll, Advertising in China, 13.
Sun, Guanggao Xue, 48-49.
 Scott D. Seligman, "China's Fledgling Advertising Industry," The China
Business Review (January/February, 1984), 12.
Xu, Marketing to China, xxv.
Barbara S. Baudot, International Advertising Handbook: A User's Guide to Rules
and Regulations (Lexington, MA and Toronto: Lexington Books, 1989), 9.
Baudot, Advertising Handbook, 9; Everett M. Jacobs, "New Developments in Soviet
Advertising and Marketing Theory," International Journal of Advertising, 5 (3,
1986), 244; P. Hansen, Advertising and Socialism (London: Macmillan, 1974).
China suffered from serious natural disasters for three years in succession
from 1960 to 1962. In the meantime, Sino-Soviet relations worsened, and the
Chinese government had to pay off its debts to the Soviet Union it ran into from
the Korean War.
John Howkins, Mass Communication in China (New York and London: Longman Inc.,
Mao's "New Democracy" was an attempt to combine Communist dictatorial political
forms with emasculated and restricted manifestations of political pluralism in a
united front of Communists and non-Communist "patriotic personages." It was
envisaged by Mao as a transitional phenomenon, the main function of which was to
prepare the ground for proletarian dictatorship by the Communist Party. Like the
transitional arraignments in the economy before 1953, it was a mix of
incompatible elements. See Mao Zedong, "On New Democracy," in Selected Works of
Mao Zedong, vol. 2 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1965), 339-84.
Jan S. Prybyla, Reform in China and Other Socialist Economies (Washington, DC:
The American Enterprise Institute Press, 1990), 146.
Ma Hong, New Strategy for China's Economy (Beijing: New World Press, 1983), 12.
World Development Report: The Challenge of Development (Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press, 1991), 206-207.
Prybyla, Reform in China, 146.
Ma, New Strategy, 20.
Nian-tzu Wang, China's Modernization and Transnational Corporations (Lexington,
MA: Lexington Books, 1984), 6.
Although apparently never making any explicit reference to advertising, Karl
Marx held that the only activities benefiting society were those that embodied
labor value. "Costs of circulation which originate in a mere change of form of
value, ideally considered, do not enter into the value of commodities." See Karl
Marx, Capital (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957), 136, quoted
from Baudot, International Advertising Handbook, 8.
"Self-reliance and hard-struggle" was one of the most dominant political
slogans during the Cultural Revolution. While the extreme "self-reliance"
advocated by Mao led to the isolation of China from the rest of the world, the
"hard-struggle" principle stressed a plain and thrifty lifestyle, intolerant of
the hedonism usually promoted in advertising.
Lauren A. Swanson, "China Myths and Advertising Agencies," International
Journal of Advertising, 16 (4, 1997), 277; idem, "People's Advertisements in
China: A Longitudinal Content Analysis of the People's Daily since 1949,"
International Journal of Advertising, 15 (3, 1996), 222-38.
Ding Yunpen, "Restoring the Good Name of Advertising in China," Wenhui Gazette
(Shanghai), 14 January 1979, 3.
 "On China's Advertising," Beijing Review, 9 March 1979, 32.
"Ads as a Bridge," China Daily (Beijing), 17 June 1980, 4.
 Fan Lubin, "Chinese Advertising in the First Half of 1998," Zhongguo
Guanggao [China Advertising] (5, 1998), 24.
 Zhongguo Guanggao Nianjian [China Advertising Yearbook] (Beijing: Xinhua
Publishing House, 1995), 23.
For a detailed overview of Mao's role in China, see Maurice Meisner, Mao's
China and After (New York: Free Press, 1986); Dick Wilson, ed., Mao Tse-tung in
the Scales of History (London: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
Roderick McFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1974); Tang Tsou, The Cultural Revolution and Post-Mao
Reform: A Historical Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).
"The Indictment Against the Gang of Four" (2 November 1980); "The Verdict on
the Defendants" (23 January 1981); "Formalization of the Life Sentences on the
Two Principal Defendants" (25 January 1983) in The People's Republic of China
1979-1984: A Documentary Survey, vol. 2, ed., Harold C. Hinton (Wilmington, DE:
Scholarly Resources, 1986), 411-34.
Christopher M. Clarke, "Changing the Context for Policy Implementation:
Organization and Personnel Reform in Post-Mao China," in Policy Implementation
in Post-Mao China, ed., David Lampton (Berkeley, CA: University of California
Press, 1987), 25.
Richard Bush, "Deng Xiaoping: China's Old Man in a Hurry," China Briefing 1980
(Boulder, CO: Westview, 1980), 9-24; Tsou, Post-Mao Reforms, 153-55.
"The 'Two Whatevers' Do Not Accord With Marxism" (24 May 1977) and "Emancipate
the Mind, Seek Truth from Facts and United as One in Looking to the Future" (13
December 1978) in Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Beijing: Foreign Languages
Press, 1984), 51-51, 151-65; "An Appraisal of Mao Zedong by a General He
Purged," A Documentary Survey (10 April 1981), 81-86.
The two "whatevers" refer to the statement that "we will resolutely uphold
whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever
instructions Chairman Mao gave." A challenge to the two "whatevers" indicated
that a reappraisal of Mao's history began.
 Mao Zedong, The Highest Instructions (Beijing: The People's Liberation
Army Publishing House, 1968), 72.
For an overview of Mao's theory of continuing the revolution, see John B.
Starr, Continuing the Revolution: The Political Thought of Mao (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1979).
David Shambaug, "Editorial Introduction: Assessing Deng Xiaoping's Legacy," The
China Quarterly (September 1993), 409.
 As far as strengthening China is concerned, Deng Xiaoping was regarded as
sharing "an essential continuity along a historical spectrum of Chinese
reformers dating from the late Qing reformers Li Hongzhang (1823-1901) and Kang
Youwei (1858-1927). Deng was not the first Chinese leader with [this goal]
during this century, but he was the most successful in realizing [it]." Quoted
from Shambaugh, "Assessing Deng," 409-10.
 See "Communiqu of the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Party Congress,"
Beijing Review, 29 December 1978, 6-16.
"Politics in Command" was a slogan used extensively in Mao's era. Mao believed
that ideology was essential in Chinese politics to mobilize support for his
campaign against capitalism and revisionism. See Harry Harding, China's Second
Revolution, Reform after Mao (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1987),
Stuart Schram, "Economics in Command? Ideology and Policy Since the Third
Plenum, 1979-1984," China Quarterly (September 1984), 417-61.
Victor Lippit, The Economic Development of China (Armonk, NY and London: M.E.
Sharpe, Inc., 1987), 212-14.
Pu Shan, "Planning and the Market," in Economic Reform in China: Problems and
Prospects, eds., James A. Dorn and Wang Xi (Chicago and London: The University
of Chicago Press, 1990), 18.
Liu Guoguang and Zhao Renwei, "Socialist Economic Planning and the Market,"
Beijing Review, 3 August 1979, 8.
The law of value was an important notion adopted by the Chinese leadership in
the late 1970s to justify its introduction of market mechanism to the centrally
planned economy in China. This notion refers to the economic law governing the
production and exchange of commodities. According to this notion, even in a
socialist country like China values of commodities should be determined by the
amount of social necessary labor spent in their production, and commodities
should be exchanged at equal values. See Liu and Zhao, "Planning and Market," 8.
C.V. James, ed., Information China, vol. 2 (Oxford and New York: Pergamon
Press, 1989), 484-85.
William A. Byrd, The Market Mechanism and Economic Reforms in China (Armonk, NY
and London: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 132.
James, Information China, 484.
Kim B. Rotzoll, James E. Haefner, and Charles H. Sandage, Advertising in
Contemporary Society: Perspective Toward Understanding (Columbus, OH: Copyright
Grid, Inc., 1976), 15.
Peter T. Azrry and Robert D. Wilson, eds., Advertising in Canada: Its Theory
and Practice (Toronto and Montreal: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1981), 1.
Advertising was officially called an "accelerator" by Liu Baofu, director of
the Advertising Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
See Wang Yinghui, "Advertising: An Accelerator for the Economic Development in
China," Economic Information Daily (Beijing), 8 September 1991, 2.