Production/consumption and the Chinese city/region: Cultural political economy and the feminist diamond ring

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Journal Article
Urban Geography, 2009, 30 (4), pp. 368 - 390
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The "consumer revolution" in the People's Republic of China emerged after 1992 when the state deepened growth-oriented reform and justified individual consumption as a pillar of economic development. This examination of cultural-economic practices in urban China makes an argument for conceptualizing consumption in relation to production through a modified cultural political economy. It identifies a regional regime in the zone between Shanghai and Hong Kong, with the latter as China's main center of trade in precious metals and gemstones, and citizen-consumer subject formation with "Chinese characteristics." The argument builds on Chinese feminist theory to explain contrasts between PRC state ideology on women's roles in the household and contemporary alternatives in the marketplace. Empirical analysis focuses on the large market for fine jewelry, its disassociation from heteronormative gifting, and its connection with leisure/tourism sites. Conclusions affirm the importance of a cultural political economy for theorizing production/consumption relations in the city, and query evolving consumerism in the PRC. Copyright © 2009 by Bellwether Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved.
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