Home > IDEAS > Events > Individual Events > 2011 > As China Goes So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything

As China Goes So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything

Dr Karl Gerth, Professor Arne Westad (chair)
16 February 2011, 5.30pm, COL.B212

The seminar will make an examination of the most overlooked force that is changing the face of China, the Oxford historian and scholar of modern Asia Karl Gerth shows that as the Chinese consumer goes, so goes the world. While Americans and Europeans have become increasingly worried about China s competition for manufacturing jobs and energy resources, they have overlooked an even bigger story: China s rapid development of an American-style consumer culture, which is revolutionizing the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese and has the potential to reshape the world. This change is already well under way. China has become the world s largest consumer of everything from automobiles to beer and has begun to adopt such consumer habits as living in large single-occupancy homes, shopping in gigantic malls, and eating meat-based diets served in fast-food outlets. Even rural Chinese, long the laggards of consumerism, have been buying refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, and larger houses in unprecedented numbers. As China Goes, So Goes the World reveals why we should all care about the everyday choices made by ordinary Chinese. Taken together, these seemingly small changes are deeper and more profound than the headline-grabbing stories on military budgets, carbon emissions, or trade disputes.




Karl Gerth is University Lecturer in Modern Chinese History, Oxford University and Tutorial Fellow, Merton College, Oxford. His research interests concern how China has related to the rest of the world since the nineteenth century. He focuses on how issues studied in East Asian contexts challenge both established narratives of the region and the assumptions underlying scholarship derived from Western cases. He received numerous awards to support my research including from the Fulbright Foundation, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Blakemore Foundation, and the Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbusho) Scholarship for study at Tokyo University. Prior to Oxford, Dr Gerth was Associate Professor at University of South Carolina, US


Arne Westad is Co-director of LSE IDEAS and Professor of International History at LSE.



B212, 2nd Floor Columbia House, London School of Economics.