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China is known for a rich culture that was predefined by its ancient history. Therefore, the concepts of Confucianism are deeply rooted in the national identity of the local residents. Nevertheless, having endured the process of Westernization, Chinese people began to align own lifestyle with the Western requirements. This trend underlies all spheres of people’s life, being subordinate to the modern process of economic and social globalization. As a result, observing the recent marketing trends, it is appropriate to state that the penetration of cultures occurs in both ways. In particular, Western advertisement appeals to Oriental image of ‘Lotus Blossom Babies’: an Asian young lady who promotes family values, loyalty, innocence, calmness, tenderness, shyness, and submissive sexuality. Simultaneously, the Chinese advertisement is reported to change the image of females from submissive sensual beauty to the independent and bold women, who are, by all means, equal to their male counterparts. In addition, it is noticed that the image of the westernized woman is used to attract female customers more than male ones, which implies that gender differences remain a topical issue in the contemporary China. To comprehend the magnitude and influence of Westernization and Orientalism on the western and non-western people, it is necessary to identify and discuss the last tendencies in female images in Western and Eastern advertisement.
It is hypothesized that since the modern China actively participates in the process of global trading, the images of the Chinese females in advertisement comply with the images of Western models. In spite of that, it is presumed that the concepts of Confucianism, which set the standards of self-sacrificing, conflictless, appealing, and loyal lady, remain a significant part of the Chinese national awareness. Therefore, it is also suggested that the notion of men’s dominance will be manifested in a form of ‘Lotus Blossom Babies’ images, particularly in the advertisement that is oriented on the male audience.
To investigate the above-stated hypotheses, this paper refers to the concept of Orientalism that is used to explain the difference between the notions revealed by the western and non-western models. Besides, the content analysis is built on semiotic principles, which presume identifying the signs and linking them to the proper paradigms. The study is based on the materials from previous researches on the similar topic. Moreover, it includes the analysis of the Chinese models’ images in the famous modern magazines, such as The Women of China, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Maxim. Furthermore, to check the last premise (diverse advertisement for male audience), this paper will analyze the control variable, which is the advertisement of the Chinese McDonalds.
The associate of the Bejing Foreign Studies University, Ma Lin, conducted a research on topic The Representation of the Orient in Western Women Perfume
Advertisements: A Semiotic Analysis. This survey reveals that Orientalism is “the ineradicable distinction between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority”. Whereas the Chinese explain male predominance through the principles of Confucianism that were developed and implemented for centuries, the western people have other explanation for the same image of ‘Lotus Blossom Babies’. In other words, from the viewpoint of a western person the submissive image of the Chinese models is connected with the notion of inequity that was predefined by a well-known imperialistic history of Western world. It led to colonization of China, which further provoked the Century of Humiliation. As a result,
The West is depicted as developed, powerful, articulate, and superior, while the East is seen as undeveloped, weak, mysterious, and inferior. The Orient exists for the West, and is constructed by and in relation to the West. It is a mirror image of what is inferior and alien (“Other”) to the West.
Under such circumstances, it is noticed that the beauty of Asian women is associated with the submissive sexuality. Thus, these notions are often used by marketers in order to attract the western men with the exaggerated gender differences. Considering the case, woman is known as a less aggressive, weaker, and smaller creature, and whereas the West strives to lessen those gender accentuations, the East implements it as a favourable advertisement strategy. Simultaneously, due to the strengthening of Westernization tendency, the penetration of Orientalism becomes more tangible in the Western world because these processes are interdependent. Therefore, nowadays, the Western advertisement uses the image of ‘Lotus Blossom Babies’ to induce both male’s interest and female’s desire to be the same appealing for the opposite gender as the Asian models with the exaggerated feminine features.}}
Observing the images of the Chinese models in Cosmopolitan made for July 2014, it is appropriate to point out the following aspects. The females on those posted images are fully dressed in stylish clothes. The woman on the cover looks straight ahead and her gaze eliminates the notion of shyness. On the contrary, her gaze and posture express confidence, boldness, and curiosity that allude to success and intelligence. Besides, the feminine features are not stressed with the excessive make-up, vivid nails, or hairdo. It reveals the idea that this Cosmopolitan model does not embody the submissive sexuality or feminine weakness.
Analysing the image of Ming Xi, the Chinese model, who became the face of Vogue inJanuary 2012, it is necessary to pay attention to her androgenic appearance. What is more, the character of this image is exaggerated by the male-like style the model. For instance, she has short hair, and direct bold gaze, which is reinforced by the appropriate body language. Besides, in several of her pictures, she wears man’s outfit. Without doubt, these characteristics do not comply with the paradigm of the Chinese models’ submissive sexuality.
The front page of the official site of this magazine contains the images of ten different issues. The models are all Asian young women, fully dressed, and with the natural makeup (almost no cosmetics). The posted photographs are portrait images on which models direct their gazes to the readers. Most of them are dressed in white outfit and, in general, embody the image of ‘Lotus Blossom Baby’, but without implication to the dependence and submissiveness. Moreover, the spotlight titles reveal such topics as “Healthy Living”, “Windows to the Soul”, and “Leisure Reading” (The Women of China, n.d.). It suggests that the content of this magazine is more concentrated on the women’s inner world rather than on the family duties and social burden of dependency.
The issue for August 2008 reveals a beautiful young Asian model in pink underwear. Among all observed magazines, this one can be rightfully considered as the most appropriate example of the social identity that is characterized with male predominance. The design of lingerie is of old-fashioned style that embodies innocence. This message is reinforced with the pink colour, which is also associated with childhood and girls, inducing the notion of tenderness and innocence. Besides, this notion is exaggerated with the pink nails, pink lipstick, and bluster. The image is completed with the pink heart-shaped pendant. Considering this style, it is possible to deduce that Maxim’s model resembles ‘Lotus Blossom Baby’ image, manifesting Chinese cultural accentuation on male predominance.
Observing McDonald’s advertising video for the Chinese audience named Happiness had 0 Burdens, it becomes clear that the image of a submissive sexuality of a dependent woman is absent there. At the same time, it reveals culturally inherited image of a Chinese woman who is tender, calm, and beautiful. In other words, the marketers of McDonald’s still believe in the topicality of ‘Lotus Blossom Baby’. Nevertheless, this advertising video does not possess any signs of gender inequity as well as there are no indications of the purposefully exaggerated sexual differences. Moreover, it is necessary to mention that men in this video are presented without any signs of superiority; on the contrary, the male models possess the androgenic features.
The obtained results prove that the contemporary China undergoes the multi-levelled process of Westernization, which induces penetration of the western cultural accentuations into a social life of an average Chinese. Therefore, tracing the newest trends, today’s marketers strive to conquer and save the loyalty of rich and promising Asian market by appealing to their changing social identity. Consequently, the findings support the first hypothesis that the image of the Chinese women in an advertisement resonates with the character of Western models.
The second hypothesis presumes that in spite of flourishing Westernization of the Asian world, the ancient Chinese teaching of Confucianism plays an important role in the contemporary China, which is manifested in the contemporary advertisement. Specifically, a woman is considered to be self-sacrificing, dependent, obedient, beautiful, tender, sexual and feminine. In general, the results of this survey prove it to be half-wrong. On the one hand, the image of a submissive and helpless woman has lost its relevance. However, on the other hand, in terms of sexual meaning, the character of ‘Lotus Blossom Baby’ remains topical, especially while attracting male attention.
This particularity of the Asian models was presumed in the third hypothesis, which as it was stated, is proven to be correct. The corresponding manifestation is clearly visible in the images of the Maxim’s model. Besides, it is partly present in The Women of China, which uses the images of ‘Lotus Blossom Baby’ in the approach of intersexuality. Specifically, it gives women a clue what standards they should strive to reach and maintain in order to attract men.
In summary, the image of the contemporary Asian model is shaped by the simultaneous processes of Orientalism and Westernisation. Due to the economic and social globalization, the national awareness of the Chinese as well as the views of Western people towards China are greatly shaped by these influences. As a result, this particularity is used by marketers in order to attract new customers by the emancipated and independent images of ‘The Blooming Lotuses’.
Acknowledging the limitations of this study, it is necessary to point out considerable time sensitiveness. In particular, the trends change one another at a great speed. Thus, the observations of the current image would have been more complete and up-to-date if all materials have been dated 2014-2015. Furthermore, the content analysis using semiotic principles is relevant, but finding empirical data would have improved the credibility of findings. Therefore, empirical data collection by conducting online questionnaire and/or eye-to-eye interviews should be considered as the future direction of this research, which would be aimed at completing the already existing information.