Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, October 03, 2021

Nowhere is China’s officially-sanctioned xenophobia more blatant than in Beijing’s strictures on foreign-owned and -orgined media. But the authorities have made a notable pop-cultural exception:

Vogue is not alone in its gamble, and in fact the race to create lucrative fashion and lifestyle magazine franchises based on successful Western publications has never been more crowded, with Elle, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire already bulging from vendors’ racks.

On the men’s side of the newsstand, grinning models baring rippling midriffs peer out from the cover of the Chinese edition of Men’s Health magazine, first published two years ago. Last May, the competition for the male fitness and lifestyle market was joined by FHM magazine, and there are persistent industry rumors here that two other foreign publications, Maxim and InStyle, will be introduced soon.

“How to pick the right tools and the right girls,” was how the editors of FHM described their magazine, which puts scantily clad women on its covers and features purportedly candid talk about sex and relationships from single women. “We court the metrosexual,” said Jun Jin, the editor. “That’s our reader target, 22 to 45, with high education and high salary. They are crazy about new technology, and they like dating pretty girls.”

By reputation, China is all but closed to foreign news media. After years of involvement with the country, Rupert Murdoch said recently that his efforts to expand in China had “hit a brick wall,” adding that Beijing was “quite paranoid about what gets through.” In August, China’s government announced a tightening of controls on foreign media, saying this was necessary to “safeguard national culture.”

But for now, it seems that Chinese authorities have decided that the fashion magazines, which promote whiter skin - a popular theme - Western styles and an obsession with brands, and the men’s magazines - which promote toned bodies and carry lifestyle and sex advice that would not be out of place on a newsstand in New York - are safe.

It’s a peculiar state of mind. You could surmise that China’s culture watchdogs don’t see a threat in these glossies, despite their decidedly pro-Western sensibility. It follows a general guarded openness that’s come with increased economic liberalization — especially in the development of consumerism as a microeconomic engine — but seems to be a curious exception.

By comparison, within the Western cultural sphere, places like France maintain rigid controls to avoid a flooding of outside (usually American and British) media from overwhelming native content. China’s position seems to assume that there’s a fundamental barrier between East and West anyway, and any cross-pollination won’t stick, and is therefore harmless.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/03/2021 09:41:22 PM
Category: Publishing, Fashion | Permalink |

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