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  • Beatrice Tamagno

Editorial - all things Chinese

“Made in China” is one of the first ideas that comes to mind when we think about China’s contribution to the world. Most of our daily objects, from our beloved smartphones to our clothes and shoes, are manufactured here.

But China has been producing incredible things for a very long time. The richness and uniqueness of Chinese objects have attracted the gaze of colonizers, who stole them and brought them to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, sparking a continental obsession for the so-called “chinoiserie”.

Objects have not always been abundant in China though. During the Maoist years (1949-1978) economic struggles and the communist organization of production stripped personal possessions to the essential.

Many objects from this period are iconic and highly recognizable, as they were mass-produced with very little variety: everyone used the same steel cup, the same stove, and, more or less, the same clothing.

It is only with the economic reforms in the 80s that China saw a true “objects renaissance.” Following rapid industrialization, the country became the roaring engine of the global economy, and millions of Chinese citizens were able to step out of poverty.

As a consequence of rising salaries and new technologies, consumption thrived and brought about the extravagant universe of 21st-century Chinese objects. In the maximalist microcosm of Taobao and Pinduoduo, every item you can possibly think of is just one click away.

The phenomenon of “Made in China” is often blindly associated with low-quality trinkets, copycats, and mostly invaluable stuff. However, in recent years, China has emerged as the birthplace of technological and artistic innovation.

In the ChinaNauts’ March issue we explore the marvelous evolution and fascinating significance of objects in contemporary China.


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