The perceived cosmopolitan consumption of globally mobile, young consumers from China
journal contributionposted on 05.09.2019, 17:00 by Wei-Fen Chen
Purpose This study aims to explore the consumption practices of globally-mobile, young consumers from China who experience both upward social mobility and geographically outbound mobility by studying abroad, echoing emerging scholarship of “moving consumption”. Design/methodology/approach Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 27 first-generation Chinese international students studying in the USA. Findings The informants interpret outbound geographical mobility and upward social mobility in an overlapping manner. For them, cosmopolitan consumption practices are a form of boundary work and identity construction, reflecting their international experience. At the same time, the informants seek affirmation of the meanings and references of their consumption in their remote, native cultural contexts. In this way, they ensure that their tastes align with the popular “West” with which Chinese consumers are already familiar. Originality/value This study examines international student mobility that is unique to the younger generation. It considers how such form of mobility shapes the consumption patterns of Chinese youth with substantial purchasing power. Young, affluent international students differ in fundamental ways from other cross-cultural, cross-border travelers such as migrants, globally-mobile professionals, global citizens, nomads, sojourners and tourists. Thus, this study not only sheds light on the under-researched subject of “moving consumption” but also addresses youth cultures in transitional economies by exploring how Chinese youth consume when they are away from home and exposed to global consumerism first-hand.