Pulling at the heart and the purse strings

Chinese businesses are adapting to societal change and influencing the government's policies, writes undergraduate student NICHOLAS HORTON.

On Valentine's Day earlier this year, the world's largest online retailer announced it would send 10 lucky couples on all expenses paid holidays to California to get married and relax for a week in five-star comfort.

It seems like any other Valentine's Day marketing gimmick. There was the ubiquitous annual online competition pitting thousands of couples against one another under the auspices of not-so-subtle brand placement.

Except this competition was for e-commerce giant Taobao, not eBay.

It was in China, not the US.

And none of the marriages would be recognised when they returned home because they were gay.

China only de-criminalised homosexuality in 1997.

Discussion of sexual minorities remains largely taboo and faces strict censorship under the country's loosely-defined and arbitrary media classification laws.

It is increasingly common for multinational corporations to sponsor marriage equality among the so-called "pink dollar" - the moniker for LGBTI consumers - but such public displays of support are largely non-existent in China.