Haiping Zhu

  • Haiping ZhuHaiping Zhu is originally from China and joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in September 2013. The title of her thesis is ‘The influence of Chinese philosophical religious traditions on Chinese consumption behaviour: a multiple case study of Chinese festivals’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I first heard about Oxford Brookes University when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in China. One of my teachers, who is originally from Oxford, mentioned it to me and explained that Oxford Brookes is a leading modern university with a lot of international students from more than 150 different countries. I believed this diverse learning environment would greatly help me become an effective contributor in today's multicultural society. That is why I decided to pursue my master’s degree at Oxford Brookes University, which I completed in 2012.

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    While I was studying at Brookes for my master’s degree, the tutors were very helpful and always created a positive and engaging classroom atmosphere. I believe Brookes offers a university experience of quality that goes beyond the lectures in the classroom. It not only gave me knowledge, skills and confidence in myself, but it was also a great experience which made my world better. While I was writing my dissertation for my MSc in International Management, my supervisor Dr Joanna Karmowska provided a lot of guidance in terms of personal development as well as during the PhD application process. For my doctoral studies, I have been extremely lucky as I have two very good supervisors, Dr Jackie Clarke and Dr Nicoletta Occhiocupo, who are extremely supportive and helpful. I believe caring student-teacher relationships at Brookes have greatly helped students do better at the University, as well as act kindlier toward others. In my opinion, such working relationships are crucial to the success of any PhD study.

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    I found it very easy to settle into the research environment at Brookes. People here are friendly and helpful, and I got extensive support from the supervisory team as well. I was particularly impressed by the faculty teams, research administration, library resources, as well as the training and development courses that are available at the University. As a research student, you will normally be allocated two supervisors. This is to ensure that you will be placed within an appropriate, supportive environment from which you will be able to build and establish your identity as an independent researcher.

    Tell us about your research.

    The purpose of this research is to explore how the Chinese philosophical religious traditions of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism impact on the consumption behaviour of contemporary Chinese consumers. As China is rapidly becoming an important market for consumer goods, in particular luxury, it is critical for marketers to develop a more nuanced understanding of Chinese consumers. Relatively little is known about the differences in consumer purchasing and consumption patterns of Chinese consumers. This research uses multiple case studies of the three most influential philosophical religious traditions – Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism – in China, and the associated knowledge of their influence on Chinese consumer behaviour today. 

    Although there are many studies on the influence of Chinese cultural values on Chinese consumer behaviour, most of them consider only one cultural dimension. For instance: Confucian luxury consumption; Confucianism culture values and gift giving behaviour; and Chinese luxury consumption behaviour.  Few studies have explored Chinese consumers’ preferences for non-luxury products. China has three core philosophical religious traditions - Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism - so people are subjected to a wide range of cultural value reference groups that ultimately affect their purchase behaviour. These operate as cultural components of the person in terms of consumer attributes and processes, and as cultural components of behaviour in terms of consumer behaviour domains. To overcome such limitations and provide marketers with better knowledge on how to differentiate their marketing strategies in China, this study seeks to explore the purchasing and consumption experience of Chinese consumers as influenced by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The key contribution is likely to lie with the development of a framework and its evidence-based conceptualisation of Chinese consumption behaviour across all three traditions. In doing so, the research will offer a (relatively rare) non-Western perspective on contemporary consumption behaviours rooted in a very different cultural heritage.

    This study implies that philosophical religious traditions exert a strong influence on people’s consumption behaviours. These religious beliefs shape attitudes towards behaviour, including consumption intentions. Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism constitute the essence of the traditional Chinese culture and are equally important in understanding traditional Chinese culture. Findings from Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism festival case studies will contribute to the explanation of Chinese consumption behaviour and exploration of the purchasing and consumption experience of Chinese consumers as influenced by Chinese philosophical religious traditions. The study helps fill the gap in terms of consumer research scarcity in China from a native perspective and to assist marketing professionals in developing a better understanding of the intersection between Chinese culture and consumer behaviour. 

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    Being a research student is a fantastic opportunity to research a topic I am interested in. It offers me the opportunity to explore my research topic in detail with a new perspective, to discover or learn something new, to improve myself and my life, and ultimately to achieve something significant. I enjoy the process of doing research; it is an effective way to develop your learning management skills and obtain a PhD. Being a research student, you can also learn a lot from your fellow research students. They research different topics, they come from different cultures, and I believe you can learn and benefit a lot from a diverse learning environment. 

    As an international student, I felt that cultural differences and language (English) presented personal and professional challenges in my studies - the language limitations indirectly increase the workload, burden and pressure. Therefore, I decided to register in the free English course provided by Oxford Brookes - Academic English for Postgraduate Study and Research - where talking to native English speakers greatly improved my level of English. 

    I am also grateful for the fact that both of my supervisors are very supportive in all stages of the PhD programme and provide me with many strategies to help improve my academic English. They also encourage me to do presentations, attend conferences and lectures, and write papers. I can feel that I am progressing thanks to this.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes? 

    I have been able to access a variety of workshops at Brookes. Specifically, I found the faculty 20-20 seminars and presentations really helped me understand and plan the way I will move forward in this research process. The University also provides general research skills training and development events designed to complement the subject-specific and project-related training provided by academic units and disciplines. These cover topics such as carrying out a literature review and preparing for the Viva exam. In addition, the training on research career development, aimed at researchers early on in their careers, offers considerable benefit to the student as it allows them to combine theory and practice.

    What are your future plans?

    After completing my PhD, I aspire to continue my career and further develop my education. I plan to engage in post-doctoral studies and deepen my consumer behaviour research by combining it with the new trend of virtual reality technology or artificial intelligence.