June 24, 2005

Mao Vuitton (Or: Watch Your Luggage)


As best I understand, China is fast becoming America’s next obsession — and ultimate threat.

I usually avoid returning to the same source so soon, but TIME hooked me again.  That said, I had to wade through thousands of words and multiple articles to find specific references to this visual.  I came up with three:

The first was the story of Liu Li, a 20 year old garment worker in Kaiping.  Her profile suggested that, with China’s growing prosperity, the people who have been used to sweating to make fine garments are starting to aspire to wear them.

Second, an article described a man named Wang Ling, who is taking advantage of a new tolerance for expression to criticize unscrupulous Shanghai property owners operating in collusion with the government.  He tells his story to the TIME reporter in a Starbucks around the corner from the Louis Vuitton store.

Third, a progressive filmmaker pushes the idea that China is not that much different  than the rest of the world.  She views China as a “post-ideological” society.  In other words, mall hopping is in, Communism is out — and Mao’s image has become a “Pop-art commodity.”

So, what’s with the picture?

Is this the new party uniform?  Besides manufacturing everything in sight, do these guys now have designs on the design?  Beyond economic and military might, is China a growing  to our cultural superiority?  Is the only way to rule the world these days to do it with class?  Is fashion the new opiate of the masses?  Wither the French?

(And, how do we stack up when Bush deals mostly in private brands — either “war ready-to-wear” or “culture of life couture?”)

(image: Time Magazine cover.  June 27, 2005.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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