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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Decoding China’s pink economy : emergence, gendered distinctions, and mainstream companies’ pursuit of pink money Liu, Xingshu


This dissertation examines how the economic institutions of the pink economy have emerged in China since the early 2010s, how gendered sociality has influenced the way the lesbian and gay male consumer markets are organized, and how Chinese mainstream companies have marketed to lesbians and gay men by mobilizing repertoires of subcultural codes, sociocultural norms, and cultural trends in contemporary China. This dissertation draws on interviews, ethnographic data, media data, and social semiotic analysis of gay advertisements to address these different yet inextricably linked questions. This study contributes to the existing literature on the sociology of markets that demonstrates how the state, gender, and sociocultural norms shape market economies. It also fills a crucial gap in the sociological study of markets: understanding how sexual identity shapes market development and organizations. My research findings can be summarized as follows. First, unmet consumer demand forms the basis of the pink economy sector, and the state set the scene for the nascent pink sector to emerge: government policies triggered a surge in funding resources and technology infrastructure upgrades that laid the material foundations for pink entrepreneurship. Pink companies have strategically leveraged government policies to negotiate their legitimacy with the authorities. Second, this study indicates that certain types of commerce existing in the gay male consumer market do not dovetail with lesbians’ preferred ways of socializing characterized by security and privacy. Opportunities for the lesbian and gay male markets exist in different types of trade and business. Third, Chinese mainstream companies have capitalized on public ignorance of LGBTQ culture by employing gay subcultural codes in their marketing practices. In patrilineal China, gay marketing is influenced by different cultural perceptions of same-sex intimacy between men and women, resulting in distinct portrayals of gay men and lesbians. Some advertisements featuring gay men and lesbians have enjoyed popularity on the coattails of the thriving danmei culture and the China-Chic economy. Gay marketing is embedded in the social realities of contemporary China: the dynamics among state power, sociocultural norms, cultural trends, and multiple subcultural groups that mainstream marketing has attempted to pull in.

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