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Meinu Jingji/China's beauty economy: Buying looks, shifting value, and changing place


  • Gary Xu
  • Susan Feiner


Along with the new products, modes of behavior, and economic relations that followed China's 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) came the introduction of new words to everyday language. The term meinu jingji, “beauty economy,” is increasingly ubiquitous, describing everything from beauty pageants, modeling competitions, advertisement, cosmetics, and cosmetic surgery to tourism, TV, and cinema, and even extending to China's success in the Athens Olympics. One of the unexpected by-products of this new cultural focus on beauty as a significant source of individual economic success is the full bloom of beauty pageants endorsed by the state. This article focuses on these pageants: their history in China, their promotion of Anglo-European beauty norms, and their relationship with Chinese national identity and economic reform. The paper argues that the beauty pageants are a prerequisite of China's neoliberal policies as they promote consumerism, reinforce and symbolize commodification, divert attention to the personal, and undermine political protest of the ravages of economic reforms.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary Xu & Susan Feiner, 2007. "Meinu Jingji/China's beauty economy: Buying looks, shifting value, and changing place," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(3-4), pages 307-323.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:13:y:2007:i:3-4:p:307-323 DOI: 10.1080/13545700701439499

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Colander, 2005. "The Making of an Economist Redux," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 175-198, Winter.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wang-Sheng Lee & Zhong Zhao, 2017. "Height, Weight and Well-Being for Rural, Urban and Migrant Workers in China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 117-136, May.

    More about this item


    Beauty pageant; China; meinu jingji; neoliberalism; JEL Codes: D; D1; D11;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory


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