Since the opening and reforms of the late 1970s, China’s economy has boomed, leading to a rise in wealth and a burgeoning middle class. With new money comes status symbols, and modern China has plenty. Here are 10 of the most ostentatious and intriguing.
1. A Mistress
A. Zhen, self-proclaimed mistress
To anyone familiar with China’s seamier side, the concept of high-powered men taking mistresses will come as no surprise. When a guy’s material needs have been satisfied, an extramarital affair serves to fulfil his carnal requirements as well. Rather than simply meeting up for trysts with his ernai, a man must provide his mistress with an apartment, car and designer wardrobe. Like it or not, sleaze is here to stay, and even high-ranking officials are in on the act. Disgraced railway minister Liu Zhijun was discovered to have 18 mistresses, and ex-vice mayor of Hangzhou, “Plenty” Xu, had a similar harem when he was executed for embezzlement in July.
2. A Luxury Car
Every wealthy Chinese person worth his or her salt counts fancy wheels among the trappings of their material success. German cars are among the most popular when it comes to sedans, with Audi and BMW occupying the top spots in the market. Before a middle class guy can even consider wooing a lady, he must first ensure that he has a decent vehicle. And if he wants to take a mistress? Well, that’s another car he needs to budget for.
3. A Pilot License
A car is one thing, but the highest rollers like to go even higher. There are now 1,600 official pilot license holders in China (and doubtlessly plenty more that are unofficial…), and low altitude air spaces have been opened in Hainan, Guangdong and Heilongjiang for them to take their jets for a spin. Getting a license doesn’t come cheap, with courses costing as much as 80,000 RMB. Ownership of private jets is still limited in China, with just 100 registered, but the trend is growing. Celebs like Fan Bing Bing and Chen Daoming have gotten in on the action, each buying a jet of their own.
4. A Tibetan Mastiff
Among pedigree dogs, the Tibetan Mastiff is neither the friendliest nor the most attractive, but it is currently the most prized canine in China. Dogs of this breed fetch ridiculous sums; in 2009 a Xi’an couple shelled out over 300,000 RMB for theirs, and show dogs at the annual China Tibetan Mastiff Expo boast names like God, Prince and Warren Buffet (seriously). Pets were banned under Mao for promoting bourgeois attitudes, but ownership of small animals like crickets and birds never really went away. Having the money and space to keep a big dog like a Tibetan Mastiff is a clear sign that you’re doing well for yourself financially.
5. Apple Products
To gauge China’s love of iPhones, iPads and Macbooks, you only have to look at the queues outside Apple stores whenever a new device is launched. Desperate consumers were crushed in the fever to get their hands on the iPad two in Beijing in May this year, and a boy even sold his kidney to afford one. Apple products appeal to the wealthy urban youth thanks to their sleek design, cult following, and reassuringly high prices. The fact that they are made on production lines in Guangdong does little to tarnish their appeal.
6. Pale Skin
Contrary to Western women’s fondness for suntanned skin (presumably to imply that they are wealthy enough to take expensive holidays to warmer climes), Chinese ladies prefer the pale and interesting look (presumably to prove that they don’t work outside in a manual job). Beauty products tend to contain “whitening” ingredients, and Western brands operating in China almost always add a special line to their product range, like L’Oreal’s White Perfect. Women hide from the summer sun under decorative parasols, and the pastiest of complexions are prized as the most attractive.
7. Fine Wine
China’s domestic wine industry might not be up to much yet, but it is expected to flourish. Until then, wealthy Chinese feed their grape habit with expensive imported wines. These days it’s common to see wine bars with a clientele of mainly locals, as the Chinese palate develops a taste for Cab Sav and Chardonnay. Wine’s growing popularity is partly due to its associations with the sophistication of France and Italy, and partly due to the fact that imported stuff is so darn expensive.
8. Luxury Furniture
Recently, luxury furniture company Da Vinci was found to be peddling goods that were Made in China instead of Made in Italy. However, the scandal has done little to douse China’s wealthy from lusting after plush sofas from the likes of Versace Home, Fendi Casa and Kenzo Maison. Having the ready cash to kit out your home like Donatella’s boudoir is a sign of great fortune and profligacy.
China is catching up with the West when it comes to golf, the sport of the idle rich, or middle class dudes trying to up their guanxi with colleagues and clients. There are now around 600 golf courses in China, up from just a hundred or so at the turn of the millennium. A round on the fairway is seen as proof of your mettle.
10. A Designer “Murse”
Finally, the one thing no rich Chinese guy should be without: a man purse (a.k.a. “murse”) from a recognized brand. Gucci, Burberry and Louis Vuitton all fit the bill, with slightly less kudos for mid-range names like Coach. A guy needs somewhere to stash his cash and his iPhone, and the murse is the ideal accessory. Aspirational and functional.
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Keywords: status symbols in China the top Chinese status symbols signs you’re rich in China signs of wealth in China
I think this is yet another re-run article. As joe mentioned, Tibetan Mastiffs have been out now for years. Their temperament is quite bad, especially not being in colder, higher geographical locations. eChinacities is running out of writers?
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