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restaurants and cafes where weary shoppers
can rest and refresh. The mall with the most
mainland tourists, Harbour City in Kowloon,
listed these establishments on its store location
map as 'Western Delicacies', which is a very
literal translation into English of the Chinese
category name on the same signboard.
Council report (2007) notes that this group
is a,
. . . new generation of mainland consumers
(that) is typically leading a stressful life and thus
they crave for a leisurely and carefree lifestyle .
. . . They would buy luxury items, frequent high
class venues, drink red wine, play golf, buy
collectibles and travel overseas to reward
themselves for working hard and to reaffi rm
their self worth.
(HKTDC, 2007, p. ii)
The report also notes that this generation does
not go after Western luxury products blindly,
but with reference to their own hopes and aspi-
rations. The youngest of this group are known
in China as the balinghou or the '80s genera-
tion', born after the economic reforms began.
Their attitudes to consumerist culture are totally
different to that of many of their forebears
( SCMP , 30 January 2008).
One argument for mainland Chinese tourist
gaze focusing on Western luxury goods is that
they are now fashionable as a class of consumer
item useful for displaying status by China's
increasingly upwardly mobile middle-class. It
has already been observed that societies that
retain some underlying Confucian values often
link consumption to 'face' and status for both
the individual and family. Wong and Ahuvia
(1998) were the fi rst to note this in their cross-
cultural study of luxury consumption. More
recent research into the hierarchical nature of
such societies indicates that conspicuous con-
sumption of luxury items is one way of promot-
ing one's status to the rest of the community
and affi rming success (Yeung, 2000). Shopping
bags bearing designer goods logos or the dis-
play of the goods themselves relay this message
as a symbol of class identifi cation or specifi c
personal attributes to observers.
The emerging nouveau riche and middle-
class mainland professionals have been seeking
to purchase luxury goods in higher quantities
than previously before (despite the current eco-
nomic crisis) including; Western luxury cars,
timepieces, home furnishings, designer hand-
bags, luggage and clothes. This is not just one
monolithic market: it could be divided further by
age and income into at least two sub-categories.
An older generation of entrepreneurs and eco-
nomic pioneers who are starting to retire that
are distinct from younger professionals who
grew up and started their careers during China's
economic reforms after 1980. Both are inter-
ested in luxury Western brands, but for slightly
different reasons. The key characteristics of this
latter younger group can be termed the 'Three
Highs' in typical mainland Chinese fashion:
high rank, high education and high income
levels. A recent Hong Kong Trade Development
There are currently two general groups of main-
land tourists featured in this discussion: group
tours and independent tourists (who are more
likely to be balinghou ). It is likely that these
could be broken down into more sub-groups
with further research (e.g. overseas-educated
returnees, experienced business travellers, fi rst
time travellers, anglophiles and extreme shop-
ping tourists). Each would have a different way
of appreciating Western culture and its centrality
to their trip to postcolonial Hong Kong. How-
ever, it is clear that the brands marketed in the
larger shopping malls know their target market
well and are good at encouraging a liminal
shopping experience with the clever use of
Western trappings. Visual aspects of the experi-
ence include, but are not limited to, the nature
of the displays, lighting, promotional photo-
graphy, historical symbolism, iconography
and even glamorous associations with fi lm stars.
The shopping experience can comprise window
shopping, sometimes purchasing, watching
other tourists, buying drinks, eating in Western
style cafes and photographing Western historic
buildings nearby.
Other factors yet to be appreciated are
the impact of travel to Western destinations for
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