Translocal celebrity activism: shark-protection campaigns in mainland China

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Environmental Communication, 2016, 10 (6), pp. 763 - 776
Issue Date:
2016-11-01
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© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Shanghai-born Yao Ming, a retired star player with the American National Basketball Association, is the celebrity face of translocal conservation campaigns to stop the consumption of shark-fin soup in Chinese restaurants worldwide. The standard justification for such communication practices is that they will generate media publicity and save shark populations, by encouraging increasingly affluent Chinese consumers to stop eating a luxury food item based on cruel and unsustainable practices. To date, there has been limited research on the nature of shark-protection campaigns in mainland China, the proclaimed major future market for shark fin. This paper fills that gap. It contends that these campaigns have missed their target, being heavily influenced by communication strategies used in international campaigns and providing incoherent local framing. Declining demand for shark fin demonstrates instead that government austerity measures have had a greater impact on luxury consumption practices, inadvertently highlighting the potential of “authoritarian environmentalism.”
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