Education of values: Marketizing the aging population in urban China

Yifan Wang


In this article, I examine some of the marketing and sales strategies at Gardenview, a newly established eldercare company that ran a few residential eldercare facilities in Nanjing, China. There, like elsewhere in urban China, the projected aging demography was mobilized to push for an industrialization (chanyehua)—marketization and professionalization—of eldercare, transforming ideas and experience of eldercare by putting forward a new set of knowledge of aging. To this end, I first ground the rising eldercare industry in the transitioning paradigm of conceptualizing China’s population from population control to demographic aging. Then I explore ethnographically how Gardenview participated in the eldercare industry in a rapidly aging China. In particular, I look at the floorplans and the marketing stories as devices of the education of values—as prices, the good and desirable, and differentiators—to understand the social, economic, and ethical dynamics instigated by a transitioning demography. These values, as I show, are crucial in linking everyday life and choices with the paradigmatic shift of China’s population. Finally, I discuss how understanding the very processes of marketing and sales as an education of values could shed further light on what anthropologist Michael Fischer calls “literacies of the future” as a socially and economically elaborated and contested world of an aging China.


eldercare; marketization; population; ethics; development; values

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