Western-Style Suits

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After the Communist Revolution, western-style suits fell out of favor in China because of their association with western imperialism.  Thus, in October 21, 1984, when Hu Yaobang, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, appeared on television at a meeting of the Central Committee wearing a dark-blue western style suit, he was making a bold sartorial statement.  To many Chinese watching the televised meeting, his appearance was extraordinary.  Prior to this event, Communist Party leaders had always appeared at formal functions inside the PRC in Mao suits.  Hu's move was possible because of the more relaxed atmosphere following the ascendancy to power of Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and his introduction of political and economic reforms.  From this point on, as China entered into the international political stage and global economy, government and business leaders had a wider range of choices of how to present themselves.

Before 1984 communist officials would occasionally don a western-style suit when traveling outside China.  Below is a photo of Hu Yaobang visiting Japan.

Do you see any differences between the suits worn here that would reveal which person was Chinese and which  was Japanese?

Photo of 1983 visit by Hu Yaobang to Japan                                      source

The photo to the left below is of Deng Xiaoping, the powerful Chinese leader.  Below right is a photo of Jiang Zemin (left), President of China  since 1993, posing with a guest.

Do the clothes worn by these two men seem to reflect anything about their politics?

 Deng Xiaoping 1987 source

Jiang Zemin (left)                               source

By the end of the twentieth century the western-style suit had been fully adopted by Chinese men as the preferred choice of clothing for all formal, official, and business affairs. Below is a photo of members of the private Technical Advisory Committee giving a plaque to the Premier of the Republic of China, Yu Kuo-hwa, in Taipei, Taiwan.

Although these men are dressed in western-style suits, do you notice anything in their surroundings which suggests traditional Chinese culture? What do you make of this juxtaposition of Chinese and western culture?

 Taiwan businessmen and government officials, 1989                    source

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