Forty Years of the Return of Advertising in China (1979–2019): A Critical Overview
School of Media, Communication and Sociology, University of Leicester (UK)
Giovanna Puppin is a Lecturer in International Advertising and Promotional Cultures (China) in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology, University of Leicester (UK). Her research expertise includes Chinese advertising and the creative industries, media and popular culture, country branding and soft power, on which she has written extensively. Since 2015, she has been Programme Director of the MA Media and Advertising, and in 2019 was nominated Associate Researcher at the National Centre for Cultural Innovation Research at Fudan University (Shanghai). She assumed the role of Principal Investigator for the project ‘CreAD: UK-China Partnership on Creative Advertising’, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (February 2019–February 2020).
Despite advertising now being ubiquitous in China, the phenomenon is still considered to be relatively new. It was officially reintroduced after the Maoist years, thanks to the economic reforms and opening-up policy initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1979. Advertising has seen tremendous growth over the past 40 years and is now acknowledged as an indispensable tool in the country’s economic growth: it fuels domestic consumption and is the main source of income for the national media. In 2011, China became the second biggest advertising market in the world, but the Chinese authorities still have an ambivalent attitude towards it. Although advertising is a key creative industry in China and is strongly supported by the government, through dedicated plans and policies, it tends to be strictly aligned with the Party-State’s political agenda and, as a result, it is heavily regulated and required to help with the construction of a socialist spiritual civilisation. This article provides the first comprehensive and up-to-date critical overview of the 40 years since the return of advertising in China, addressing its history, growth, recent trends and government regulation, as well as the development of its counterpart for the common good – public service advertising.