economics marketing Societies

When Tang, A Drink For Astronauts, Was A Status Symbol In China

“The year I turned 16, a new product caught my eye. Fruit Treasure, as Tang was named for the Chinese market, instantly won everyone’s heart. Imagine real oranges condensed into a fine powder! Equally seductive was the TV commercial, which gave us a glimpse of a life that most families, including mine, could hardly afford. The kitchen was spacious and brightly lighted, whereas ours was a small cube …

The drink itself, steaming hot in an expensive-looking mug that was held between the child’s mittened hands, was a vivid orange…

Until this point, all commercials were short and boring, with catchy phrases like “Our Product Is Loved by People Around the World” flashing on screen. The Tang ad was a revolution in itself: the lifestyle it represented – a more healthful and richer one, a Western luxury – was just starting to become legitimate in China as it was beginning to embrace the West and its capitalism…

To add to my agony, our neighbor’s son brought over his first girlfriend, for whom he had just bought a bottle of Tang. He was five years older and a college sophomore; we had nothing in common and had not spoken more than 10 sentences. But this didn’t stop me from having a painful crush on him. The beautiful girlfriend opened the Tang in our flat and insisted that we all try it. When it was my turn to scoop some into a glass of water, the fine orange powder almost choked me to tears. It was the first time I had drunk Tang, and the taste was not like real oranges but stronger, as if it were made of the essence of all the oranges I had ever eaten.”


If shiny little bits of trash or a sugary, artificially flavored drink mix were made scarce and claimed to be desirable by the herd, especially its fertile female contingent, we must predict that everyone would scramble to get it.

This is why I’ve long considered measures of intrinsic value(of a good to an individual) to protect ourselves from the caprices of an insane and self-destructive mass society.

I recognize that the individual cannot be held truly distinct from society, not even close, but I keep my model simple.  It’s a basic method to clear away unwarranted hype and come out ahead of the crowd.

I’m supposing the boy in the story got a generous short term hypergamous payoff for following the fad and buying a can of orange flavored junk.
But guess what probably happened to his fawning groupies as soon as the Tang bubble popped?
We would see him left with a worthless powder for which he paid dearly and no long term or tactical gain to show for it.

Indeed, with that much less resources in his wallet, the less capital he has to impress the next round of herd females.  Worse, he was probably spending scarce funds his family needed to feed itself and pay for rent and education.

By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

5 replies on “When Tang, A Drink For Astronauts, Was A Status Symbol In China”


It’s Eric, orange market smuggler.

Imagine having armed goons guarding one of those huge trans-Pacific shipping containers stuffed full of illicit tang.

And imagine your customers on the other side, assessing the quality of your “Fruit treasure” by nudging it around on a small mirror with a razor blade.

This is a clear example of the scam of “progress” and “civilization”. The mentality of those who started to worship Tang and dropped real oranges can be summed as such:
“Who wants oranges anymore when progress has brought us Tang and thus we became civilized?”
“Drinking real orange juice has become of the past and now we have progressed and we became civilized. We don’t want to go back to Stone Age.”
“Why do all the work of exctracting orange juice while some factory can produce something similar and more superior to it?”

Eric has convinced me that plenty of real technological progress is taking place.

However, I have, to say the least, very little confidence in those who presently hold power.

So I try to maintain healthy skepticism about the oligarchs while understanding the reality of overwhelming currents of change.

Historically, oligarchs, luddites, no one has been able to halt mass changes in technology and the way life is lived…in the long run.

We might consider how Soros’ money couldn’t change much in Russia, or how all the might of the US couldn’t change much in Vietnam.
Even the powerful are dwarfed by larger trends.

It could be some time yet before the tectonic social changes we’ve been writing about for years become apparent to most people.

I too do not take claims of “progress” at face value. These are claims I need to examine for myself.

We can evaluate a thing by its performance in life.
So, how does “progress” represented by Tang compare to “backwardness” represented by real oranges? In this case, “backwardness” is better than “progress” in life.
However, in the current situation, so-called progress is imposed on everybody regardless of its real value. And there are reasons for this:
1, so-called progress is cheaper to produce, thus insuring that all the people’s money goes back to those who monopolize production,
2, those who produce it want to monopolize the most important resources of human life.
The minds of the people have to be brainwashed to believe in “progress”.

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