Webster defines holiday as “a day on which one is exempted from work”. Academic rigour should only be to be taken with a grain of salt in a country where all rules are flexible, if you have the right strings to pull. 5.17, 5.20, 6.18, 11.11, 12.12… these are the dates of Chinese holidays that trace no historical root, but are a surefire way of exposing China’s contemporary culture, also known as shopping holidays.
Surely, we cannot afford the population to go on a paid vacation more than once in five years; however, given the frustrated sales of Chinese products oversea, neither can we withstand losing our domestic market, our last fighting chance to retain the status as the world’s second largest economy. In other words, we cannot allow the Chinese people to apply consciousness when it comes to shopping that retrenches their expenditures. Rather, we should promote shopping holidays even when they work so much overtime that they barely have a minute for dinner.
E-commerce hence enters the Jumbotron. Thanks to shopping Apps such as Taobao or JD, shoppers can easily spend a few thousand of RMB without leaving their desks. While the business mode of brick-and-mortar epitomises the transition phase of many wester economies, the Chinese E-commerce has flourished for many years due to a hodgepodge of social and technological contingencies. Besides convenience, price, for example, is another strong competitive factor. While the Chinese have witnessed an extraordinary leap in commodity price and living cost, the growth of personal income is hardly palpable. Online data released by zhaopin.com, a leading recruitment website, shows that the average salary per month among 32 major cities in China stands a 6,070 yuan ($922.64); whereas a family dinner at a nondescript restaurant can top 2,000 yuan at ease. Such an imbalanced ratio between spending and earning drives a throng of Chinese shoppers online, where counterfeits and knockoffs of even better qualities are sold at a much more affordable price.
With the stronghold of such a premise, all we need now is a momentum; an excuse and a reminder to spend our problems away on these shopping holidays. And that is where we spew out holidays such as 6.18, whose pronunciation in Chinese symbolises lucky fortune. While the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving for massive sales, we invent our turkey day and many of its equivalents to have Black Friday(s), on which shoppers compensate the deprivation of their non-material needs with questionable designer bags, skincare products, and food supplements from Switzerland that are said to work miracles with their ravaged systems.
But since when did a country that used to be so rich in culture decline to such degree? Who or what gives us the right to create another Valentine’s Day just because that the numbers of 520 together sound like “I love you”? Culture against the context of nationalism is viewed to be congruent with polity, and the culture that nationalism claims to defend is as often as not its own invention, or is, as Cambridge professor, Ernest Gellner argues, “modified out of all recognition”. The Chinese culture we experience today, and whose roof is provided by the new Chinese nationalism, therefore, is an abnormal reproduction that creates a situation where educes the need of many.