Branding Chinese Products: Between Nationalism and Transnationalism

Hongmei Li


This paper examines how Chinese advertisers sell both nationalism and transnationalism through an in-depth investigation of recent Chinese ads in the context of China’s search for modernity and its historical and contemporary relations with the West. I argue that the marketing of nationalism and transnationalism represents contradictory concepts of China as a nation and state. It also symbolizes China’s deep anxiety and ambivalence toward its own tradition and global capitalism. On one hand, Chinese advertisers sell nationalism through celebrating Chinese history, contemporary events and Chinese lineage. On the other hand, Chinese advertisers use Western symbols and values to elevate the status of advertised products. Chinese advertisers also sell a hybrid form of nationalism and transnationalism in an attempt to reconcile Chineseness with global capitalism. To some extent, nationalism and transnationalism have become competing sites for ideas about China as a nation and state and how China should deal with a globalized world where the power relation between China and the West is still unequal.

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