Marketing research has focussed more on in-group favoritism and out-group derogation (i.e. ethnocentrism) than out-group favoritism and in-group derogation (i.e. xenocentrism). The purpose of this paper is to explore the xenocentric behavior in the consumer sphere to explain why some consumers have a bias for foreign products even when domestic ones are qualitatively similar or better. As the Chinese economy has experienced more than three decades of near double-digit growth and increased openness to foreign products, it is important to examine phenomena related to the formation of Chinese attitudes toward foreign products with the rising tensions between the seemingly irreversible globalization and Chinese re-awakening nationalism.
This study is based on a review of the extant literature and focus groups in three cities in China.
This study has found that consumer xenocentrism (CX) is prevalent in China, especially among the new emerging wealthy classes, younger consumers, and the local elite. It appears that Chinese consumers are psychologically or sociologically orientated or predisposed toward foreign (Western) goods. The findings from this study suggest that both consumer ethnocentrism and CX are possible or even expected. The short review of Chinese history presented here has shown that these phenomena can be explained by traditional in-group/out-group theories. Specifically, when there are too many xenocentrics, national esteem is threatened and this prompts many individuals to become more ethnocentric.
This study is based on the literature and focus groups data, hence, the findings are not intended to be generalizable.
The findings from this study should be of interest to business practitioners and policy makers.
The historical and cultural perspectives taken in this study indicate that understanding consumers’ xenocentric behavior entails knowledge and deep understanding of how cultural values and contemporary social-political forces interplay within consumers’ formation and change of attitudes toward the choice of domestic and foreign products.
This study shows that the ability of foreign products to meet the individual’s need or enhance his/her self-esteem more so than domestic products is indicative of something more than simply an international, cosmopolitan, or modern orientation. The fact that consumer foreign bias is found with both mundane and widely available products, expensive and inexpensive products, and conspicuous and non-conspicuous goods challenges the assumption that this phenomenon is simply traditional prestige-consumption behavior. Future research needs to be directed at measuring the CX construct and examine potential antecedents of such a behavior.