Beijing officials are ripping down billboards ($):
The campaign appears to have started with a crackdown on the advertising of luxury homes popular among China's nouveaux riches. Now, as part of what city officials are calling a massive "urban reorganization exercise," the advertising ban has been extended across much of this vast city. The push has sent the advertising industry reeling, in a country where millions of dollars are spent cultivating brand consciousness among new consumers.
Banners and posters atop office towers, along highways and construction sites are coming down. Nothing is being spared -- not even ads for next year's Olympics.
Already, ads promoting luxury cars and cellphones have disappeared. Five billboards advertising Soho China Ltd., which builds premium condominiums and retail space, have been toppled, the company's spokeswoman says.
Beijing's mayor explains that ads promoting luxury goods not everyone can afford "are not conducive to harmony." The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph interpret the billboard ban as a straightforward attempt to quell social unrest over intrastate inequality, but that doesn't explain why China's state media has done so much to hype inequality as a problem (and encourage status anxiety). There really wouldn't be much point in heavily censoring your media if journalists were permitted to publish politically threatening economic indicators--unless officials were planning on using the threat of instability to their advantage.