Italy as a national luxury brand for Chinese consumers: Global promotion and identity discontent

Lynda Dematteo


Italy has emerged as a leading producer of luxury goods on the international stage, while China has been asserting itself as a strategic market for luxury firms. Italy took advantage of the World Expos, in both Shanghai and Milan, to redefine its relationship with China. What do Chinese people consume when they buy an Italian product? They consume the images produced by Italian trade agencies and marketing services. This narrative, based on the image of consumption, is the product of a construction that has its roots in the Fascist era. The political implications of such nation branding are analyzed by confronting both the present and the past. An analysis of both the genealogy of the global Italian landscape promoted by commercial diplomacy and the protests that surrounded the opening of the Italian World Expo calls into question the transformation of nationalism in a global setting: Italy as it emerges in the Italian-Chinese interface is fetishized; a sense of inauthenticity is created among the Italians.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/708626