Advertising and Brand Culture

China underwent a number of economic reforms to move away from communism and towards capitalism following the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), a sociopolitical movement led by Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong that aimed to modernize China through the destruction and suppression of tradition. Nike, Coca-Cola, and many other U.S. brands first began selling their products in modern China in the 1980s. As trade regulations were loosened, foreign goods were increasingly imported into the country, bringing on a new era of consumerism and branded culture.

These radical changes inspired many young artists at the time, who saw the China they knew rapidly changing. Political Pop—characterized by the combination of advertising imagery, Pop art aesthetics, and references to Chinese propaganda art—grew out of this period, acknowledging similarities between political idolatry and brand worship. Capitalist consumerism, no longer a new subject in Chinese contemporary art, can now be considered through the lens of its lasting impact on Chinese culture and daily life.