|dc.description.abstract||“Face” in China is one of the country’s most traditional social and cultural factors. Generally, “Face” in Chinese social life represents the image of a person’s social self (through the thesis I will use Face with a capitalised F to represent this specific concept). Many studies have indicated that in China Face influences consumption, and specifically, relates it to conspicuous consumption (Bao, Zhou, & Su, 2003; J. J. Li & Su, 2007; Monkhouse, Bradley R, & Stephan, 2012; N. Wong, Y. & Ahuvia, 1998). However, Chinese Face is a very general concept. This thesis specifically classifies which type of Chinese Face particularly influences consumption among other types: moral Face (Lien), social Face (Mien-tzu), renqing Face and interaction Face. These are types of Face that are referred to in existing studies and research. I name the type of Face that relates to consumption, “Consumption Face”.
The aim of my study is to clarify the influence and role of Consumption Face on Chinese consumption patterns, the mechanism by which these patterns take place, and also consider how they will develop in future. I review the geopolitical nature of China as well as Chinese culture from ideology to values and norms, and in particular, the socio-political changes that occurred after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China as background regarding the formation of Face and the place of consumption in current Chinese life.
The recent rapid development of consumption in China and social needs in modern China increase the importance of identifying and conceptualising Consumption Face. This is from the basis that Chinese tend to strive for self-actualisation by using consumption to signal their social status and wealth. To do this on the basis of a broad literature review, this thesis aims to define Consumption Face and to develop a three-dimensional construct of it as a foundation for further analysis.
Following the trend of globalisation and commercialisation after the late-1970s when China opened its economy, Chinese people were considered, or hypothesised by Western scholars and others, to be more Westernised. Young Chinese especially are now considered to be more individualistic, and thus less influenced by Face than was the situation in the former traditional collectivistic Chinese society. To study the influence of Consumption Face on consumption now and in the future, I conducted a series of studies to answer two questions:
1. To what extent does Consumption Face influence purchase decisions between different categories of products and brands?
2. To what extent does the influence of Consumption Face on purchase decisions differ between young consumers and preceding generations?
To do this, I developed a Consumption Face Influence (CFI) measurement. I used this measurement construct to test different age cohorts for their consumption behaviour in regard to the purchase of luxuries and necessities. This test crossed the contexts of public consumption and private consumption. The test was also applied to measure CFI across the contexts of product categories and brands. The findings do not support the hypothesis that young Chinese consumers are less influenced by Consumption Face than their parents and older generations. CFI was even stronger for young Chinese than for their preceding generation for luxury consumption. The results also reveal that the dominant motivation for Chinese conspicuous consumption is not conspicuousness, but instead conformity. Simply using theories formulated by Western scholars to understand Chinese consumer behaviour may be misleading. Consequently, from a practical perspective, trading with China, doing business with Chinese, and undertaking marketing targeted at China, could and should engage and apply knowledge of Chinese consumption behaviour and understand behaviour related to Face.
This thesis contributes to marketing literature by identifying and conceptualising a new type of social influence toward consumption patterns which is becoming vital in China but which tends to be overlooked due to its implicit attribute. My research verifies that Consumption Face exists and profoundly influences the purchasing behaviour of young modern Chinese. It also contributes to the Face research field by classifying different types of Face for future relevant research to help specify their research scope, and by adding one more conceptualisation to the theory: Consumption Face. The conceptualisation of Consumption Face provides a new tool to investigate and analyse Chinese marketing phenomena, both as applied by them and applied to them, within substantial and sound interpretive dimensions. The tool could complement relevant research that applies Western developed concepts. This thesis suggests a developed measurement set of CFI that can help further research in the future; not only the research of Chinese in China, but also research applying to Chinese immigrants in overseas countries as well as to cross-cultural studies applied to other ethnicities.||