Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 13 No. 2, Fall/Winter 2015-2016

Document Type

Full Issue



Editor's Introduction by Melissa Dale

Small Things of Great Importance: Toy Advertising in China, 1910s-1930s by Valentina Boretti

From the turn of the twentieth century, playthings acquired a key role within the Chinese childrearing discourse as tools to train children, the prospective rescuers of China from its perceived decline. As a possibly unintended result, both children and toys acquired a marketing value: advertising employed them as icons to publicize a wide array of products. At the same time, the nascent toy industry “poached” the new discourse to brand its playthings as symbols of (made-in-China) educated progress, seeking to convince the affluent to reject things foreign, and to attract those who wished, through consumption, to participate in an enlightened community. In the reality devised by advertising, playthings would reveal, or construe, parents’ affectionate yet progressive competence, whilst children would be shaped into ideal citizens. Drawing on advertisements placed in periodicals for adults and children by Chinese and foreign producers between the 1910s and the 1930s, this study explores the ways in which children and toys were marketed as testimonials and catalysts of cognizant modernity.

The Grapes of Happiness: Selling Sun-Maid Raisins to the Chinese in the 1920s-1930s by Cecile Armand

This paper is a connective case study of Sun-Maid Raisins commercial strategies in the United States and China during the interwar years. It explores in three steps how the California-based company used advertising to bridge Chinese and American consumer cultures, less by reducing the gap than by adapting to Chinese consuming habits and purchasing power. After differentiating the universal/peculiar characteristics of consumers and raisins market conditions in the United States and China, we will examine how the specific organization of Sun-Maid in Republican China proved successful. Like British-American Tobacco and other global companies, Sun-Maid relied on its own distribution system, combining raisin imports and locally-made advertising. Last but not least, a close reading of a Sun-Maid advertisement published in 1928 in the Shenbao (one of the most important newspapers in Shanghai) will serve as a starting point to probe into Chinese and American commercial images. Using historical lenses to analyze their main visual and textual elements, we will discuss how Chinese advertisements merged local/global features of visual culture to invent their own versions of the "sex/women appeal" and the "health appeal", which both enjoyed a worldwide popularity at the time.

Haafu Identities Inside and Outside of Japanese Advertisements by Kaori Mori Want

Advertisements in Japan are full of haafu – a category denoting people of mixed race or ethnicity used in Japan. Haafu promote quite a wide range of products and services consumed by Japanese people, such as food, cosmetics, clothing, cars, electric appliances, travel, etc. in advertisements. Most haafu have racial heritage as part-Japanese (racial sameness) and as part-non Japanese (racial difference). Their mixed racial heritage appeals to marketers as well as consumers in various degrees. Haafu’s racial ambiguity is also popular among marketers because their multiracial bodies can be read as at one time as that of a foreigner, another time a Japanese, and at others both at the same time, providing a versatility that serves the purposes of marketers. Haafu are useful commodities for marketers, which explains their popularity in advertisements.

While haafu are quite noticeable in advertisements, they inadvertently contribute to stereotypes of haafu as good-looking, multilingual, friendly, rich, cosmopolitan, and part-Japanese. The stereotypes make some haafu feel “not haafu enough” because they do not fit the stereotypes. A 2013 film entitled HAFU, directed by Megumi Nishikuara and Lala Perez Takagi, depicts the lives of five haafu and the problems they face because of their sense of not being haafu enough. By examining why and how five haafu figures are rendered not haafu enough in Japanese society, this article will illustrate how the idealized homogeneous images of haafu in advertisements contrast starkly with the experiences of heterogeneous haafu.

While some haafu feel negatively towards themselves, others have started rejecting and reshaping haafu stereotypes. This response has resulted in enhancing the self-esteem of those who feel “not haafu enough,” and the creation of diversity among haafu in terms of appearances, class, linguistic skills, heritages, personalities, and experiences.

Why are Chinese Not Buying Chinese Brands? The Notion of Chinese Nationalism in the Discourse on Chinese Consumerism by Tina Tan

Since the 2008 financial crisis, Chinese consumers have become the most lucrative and desirable market for the luxury and fashion industries. Such consumers are the result of China’s nationalist agenda to reform its economy in the 1980s. Despite the growth of Chinese buying power for Western luxury goods, Chinese domestic luxury brands are still struggling to attract more domestic consumers. One of the challenges facing such Chinese domestic brands is that Chinese consumers have adopted Western ideals and concepts of luxury and fashion. In addition, Western luxury brands have included various Chinese motifs in their products, thus appropriating the concept of “Chinese elements” and limiting the potential development of these concepts within China. Furthermore, China has a legacy of producing poorly made goods, creating the perception that all “made in China” products are of poor quality. As the Chinese upper and middle classes continue to grow, their buying power continues to be an obstacle for the growth of the Chinese domestic luxury brands.

The State of the Archive: Research Resources for Advertising Studies in Mainland China by Jing Chen

When scholars - especially those outside of China - look for "the archive" (literally "档案" in Chinese), they often can't find the results they want because "archive" in Chinese has a different meaning than the English term. This short essay will investigate the state of the archive of advertising in China, beginning with the ideas of archive in the past decades and exploring the particularity of archives in China. The author discusses three categories of digital resources available for advertising studies in China: 1) databases of advertisements (or materials including advertisements); 2) websites of advertising history or other materials, and 3) academic resources for advertising studies.