Has public criminology lost to consumerism: Addiction treatment in China

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The rise of consumerism in China has been widely recognised, but its impact on addiction treatment is rarely discussed. By analysing the conversations in online health forums and free consultation sites, this study finds that drug addicts in contemporary China act as typical consumers: they choose private services that suit their individual needs, respect their utilitarian motivations and protect their privacy. In contrast, state-funded community rehabilitation services, which were advocated by criminologists and adopted by the Drug Prohibition Law 2007, are largely underused. Through the identity of the consumer, addicts gained some acceptance in the highly intolerant Chinese society. Ironically, criminology only achieved limited success in this respect. Criminology also failed to engage medical and psychosocial professionals in this newly emerged industry. These professionals are pushing the boundaries of correctional treatment to underdefined realms such as internet addiction because there is a growing market shaped by paternalism and moral panic. The consumerist model of addiction treatment increases the risk of excessive intervention, net-widening and human rights violation. More disturbingly, it is excluding criminology from the construction of deviance and the formulation of a response. Deviance is becoming any behaviour that disturbs the potential buyers (people who are able
and willing to pay in order to avoid the social shaming and exclusion imposed on them or their children), while the formulation of response is becoming a purely technical matter, which leaves other issues (community engagement, cross-sector collaboration and equal access to treatment) out of consideration. In conclusion, the study argues that the collateral damage of consumerism is high; criminology in China needs to reorient its focus and face the challenges raised by consumerism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2019
EventBritish Society of Criminology Annual Conference 2019 - University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20195 Jul 2019


ConferenceBritish Society of Criminology Annual Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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