MIDDLE CLASS LIFE IN CHINA

MIDDLE CLASS LIFE IN CHINA

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Changsan minivan
Leo Lewis wrote in The Times, “Ask a relatively affluent Beijing family with a household income of $US17,000 ($16,590) a year, a home, a car, an iPad or two and a child receiving six hours of private piano lessons whether they are members of the middle class and most will be surprised at the suggestion. The same people, however, will cheerfully talk for hours about organic food websites, the hidden costs of quality education, Ikea countertops and the first season of Sherlock, a show, like Downton Abbey and The Big Bang Theory, that they have downloaded tens of millions of times. ~ [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, March 6, 2013 ~]

“Open an upper-middle-class Chinese woman's handbag (probably Louis Vuitton or Gucci) and the contents will also be instantly class-defining: a Samsung Galaxy S III loaded with the Taobao shopping app and another that provides hour-by-hour reckoning of the PM2.5 air pollution. She may already have a couple of Panasonic air purifiers at home: since the Beijing smog "airpocalypse" in January she probably has a top-of-the-range 3M pollution mask rolling around in her bag with the lippie, the eyeliner and (for some) the Hongtashan cigarettes.~

“But it is the bigger, less visible outlays that will be top of her and her husband's minds. Private health insurance, an upgrade to a BMW from a cheaper car, a possible second home in the countryside and, above all, expenditure on their offspring. Every day after school and at the weekend there will be hours of extra tutorials in English and maths and piano. Using a logic that is now starting to fill their home with goods, they will justify an expensive Yamaha keyboard as "educational". Many are budgeting for their children to be educated beyond degree level. ~

“Some will go further in their planning. More and more Chinese parents are spending a week in Britain on tours of famous public schools. Many parents devote themselves to securing a foreign passport for their children, giving them an "escape route" in the event of some vaguely defined calamity befalling China. A small number have been scouting around cities in the US looking for properties to buy as birthday presents for their three-year-olds. ~

David Pilling wrote in the Financial Times, For many middle-class city dwellers...today’s China is a fantastic adventure, a lunge into a world of previously unimagined possibilities. Even among the generation that lived through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, this is widely regarded as the most optimistic time to be alive in China in hundreds of years. [Source: David Pilling, Financial Times, June 10, 2011]

Zheng, a 34-year-old entrepreneur who died in the 2011 Wenzhou train crash, “promised me a good life," his wife Wang Hui said. Bloomberg reported: “The couple vacationed at beach resorts on Hainan Island, off China’s southern coast, and visited Beijing to see Tiananmen Square. Two years ago, Zheng bought a black Buick luxury sedan. When a daughter arrived, they nicknamed her Tangtang, or Sweetie, and Wang became a stay-at-home mom. [Source: Bloomberg News, September 18, 2011]

Zheng and Wang exemplify China’s economic transformation. Hailing from Xuzhou in northern China, Wang moved to the southwestern coastal town of Xiamen, across the strait from Taiwan, to work on cruise ships. Zheng was her colleague. They married in 2005 and moved to Zheng’s hometown of Lianjiang and he started a foot-massage business, eventually expanding into restaurants and Internet cafes. Over those six years, per-person annual income for China’s city dwellers almost doubled to more than 19,000 yuan. "I didn’t have to worry about money," she says. Wang shows the last photo she has of her husband, taken with her iPhone in the People’s Square in Lianjiang on July 19. In it, Zheng is wearing jeans, black T-shirt and flip-flops, bending next to Tangtang, whose hair is swept off her face with barrettes. He’s pointing to Wang.

Middle Class Consumption in China

Disposable incomes and consumption rates are expected to grow by about 18 percent a year, compared with just 2 percent in the United States. A car takes up 140 percent of a Chinese buyers’ annual income, compared with 30 to 40 percent in the United States.

There is an element of show to consumption. Haagen Daz shops and Starbucks are often filled with customers but few Chinese buy pints of ice cream to take home or make coffee at home. A young woman may use a Chanel lipstick at a trendy restaurant but something else for work. Marketing expert Tom Doctoroff told U.S. News and World Report: “Brands are fueling the rise of the middle class in China. The Chinese have an aching ambition to climb up the ladder of success, and brands are the mark of people who have made it.”

Middle class status has become so fashionable that a whole series of "white collar" books and guides have sprung up that give advice on things like eating caviar, arranging candles, removing spinach trapped between one's teeth and telling a coworker he has body odor. There are also books for "pink-collars" (clerks and office workers) and golden collars (nouveau riche).

Middle class families with two busy parents are increasingly hiring maids. The demand for maids has risen as it has become easier for people in the countryside to move to the cities.

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Middle Class Kids in China

left Leslie T. Chang wrote in National Geographic: “At the age of four, Zhou Jiaying was enrolled in two classes’spoken American English and English Conversation — and given the English name Bella. Her parents hoped she might go abroad for college. The next year they signed her up for acting class. When she turned eight she started piano, which taught discipline and developed the cerebrum. In the summer she went to the pool for lessons; swimming, her parents said would make her taller. Bella wanted to be a lawyer, and to be a lawyer you had to tall.” [Source: Leslie T. Chang, National Geographic, May 2008]

“By the time she was ten, Bela lived a life that was rich with possibility and as regimented as a drill sergeant’s. After school she did homework unsupervised until her parents got home. Then came dinner, bath, piano practice. Sometimes she was permitted to watch television, but only the news. On Saturdays she took a private essay class followed by Math Olympics, and on Sunday a piano lesson and a prep class for her entrance exam to a Shanghai middle school. The best moment of her week was Friday afternoon, when school let out early. Bella might take a deep breath and look around, like a man who discovers a glimpse of blue sky from the confines of the prison yard.”

In her fifth grade class “Bell ranked in the middle — 12th or 13th in a class of 25, lower if she lost focus...She spoke a fair amount of English...her favorite restaurant was Pizza Hut, and she liked the spicy wings at KFC...She owned 30 erasers — stored in a cookie tin at home — that were shaped like flip-flops and hamburgers and cartoon characters...If Bella scored well on a test, her parents bought her presents; a bad grade brought a clampdown at home...Her best subject was Chinese...She did poorly in math. Extra math tutoring was a constant and would remain so until the college entrance exams.”

On her heavy workload, Bella’s parents told Chang, “We don’t want to be brutal to her. But in China, the environment doesn’t let you do anything else.” In any case Bella began o rebel and talk about how much she hated school and loved Hollywood movies and Japanese manga. Her parents viewed themselves as failures according to Chang.

High Cost of the Emphasis on Education by China’s Middle Class

Jane Cai wrote in the South China Morning Post: “It’s a Sunday afternoon, and Amy Jiang is rushing through a packed lunch with her seven-year-old daughter outside her classroom in a shabby building in Beijing. They are on a break between two lessons, each two hours, given by an after-school tutoring company. Like millions of middle-class parents on the mainland, Jiang, a 35-year-old engineer, spends most of her weekends attending tutoring sessions with her child. “I have to be here,” Jiang said. “Some topics are too advanced for kids to understand, such as permutations and combinations in maths, and classical Chinese.” [Source: Jane Cai, South China Morning Post, October 16, 2018]

Studying a wider range of subjects in more depth than the public school syllabus requires and getting a head start by studying topics before they are covered in school have become common tactics used by parents trying to help their children compete in a challenging educational environment in China. Beijing-based New Oriental and TAL Education Group, the two largest listed education companies, both reported accelerating double-digit revenue growth in the first half of this year. New Oriental said total student enrolment in academic subject tutoring and test preparation courses increased by 44.9 per cent year-over-year to 2.06 million for the quarter ended May 31. TAL, meanwhile, said total student enrolment surged by 88.7 per cent from a year earlier to nearly 2 million students in the same quarter. “Chinese parents, especially the middle class, understand it’s hard to climb the ladder of success if children from ordinary families do not possess degrees from a good university,” Hu Xingdou, an independent economist, said. “Amid fear and anxiety, the middle class are pushing their children to study hard and are willing to save every penny to invest in education.”

Jiang is from a rural part of northern Shanxi province, but she graduated from a top university in Beijing. Her annual income of 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) is twice that of the average urban worker’s in the city. That makes her a member of China’s so-called middle class of three million, with a yearly salary of between US$3,650 and US$36,500, according to the World Bank definition.

She attributes this success to the education she received. So now, Jiang spends 12,000 yuan a year on maths lessons for her daughter, 12,000 yuan on Chinese, and 25,000 yuan on English. On top of that, she has spent about 50,000 yuan on dancing and piano lessons for Jiejie, and 20,000 yuan on an overseas trip to help the child “gain some international experience”. Education expenses account for about 30 per cent of her household income, she said.

Middle Class Stress in China

Leslie T. Chang wrote in National Geographic: “For China’s emerging middle class, this is an age of aspiration — but also a time of anxiety. Opportunities have multiplied but each one brings pressure to take part and not lose out, and every acquisition seems to come ready-rapped in disappointment that it isn’t something newer and better. An apartment that was renovated a few years ago looks dated; a mobile phone without a video camera and color screen is an embarrassment. Classes in colloquial English are fashionable among Shanghai schoolchildren, but everything costs money...Freedom is not always liberating for people who grew up in a stable socialist society; sometimes it feels more like a never ending struggle not to fall behind.

One study found that 45 percent of Chinese urban residents are at risk to health problems due to stress, with the highest rates among high school students. Parents are often perplexed by modern life and turn to their children for advise. Kids show their parents cool Internet sites, tell them which brands to buy and pick out the restaurant when they go out to eat. In many cases school homework is too difficult for the parents to help. One sociologist told Chang, “Fathers used to give orders, but now fathers listen to their son.”

In newspapers there are stories of high school students with eating disorders, teenage boys reading books with homosexual themes, university-age couples living together and job seekers flooding Buddhist temples because the Chinese word for “reclining Buddha,” “wofo”, sounds like the word “offer. Families tell stories of cleaning ladies stealing from them and friends dying in car accidents, young girls meeting strange men online, crimes in their neighborhoods and old friends disappearing because they are embarrassed about their lowly jobs or their companies going bankrupt.

Leo Lewis wrote in The Times, “At the height of Beijing's rainy season, flooding hit the capital in a furious, 20-hour deluge. In the midst of the mayhem, one proud car owner lingered too long and was trapped in his new Hyundai Tucson 4WD. As the waters rose around him he drowned, beating his fists hopelessly on the sturdy Korean windows. The next day, and for the five days that followed, China's middle classes scrambled to their favourite online retailers and unleashed the biggest hammer-buying spree in history. Nobody, they judged in their universal middle-class angst, should ever be trapped in a posh tractor without the tools to smash their way out. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, March 6, 2013 ~]

“It is reactions like this, say analysts, that will shape China's middle class as it continues on its way to becoming the most powerful social bloc on the planet. In a country where even the most palpably middle class still do not identify themselves as such, the hammer-buying binge was as defining as any economic formula or statistician's pie-chart. It spoke of an underlying nervousness about the world, of hyper-rapid middle-class groupthink and of the emerging faith that there must be a consumption-based answer to everything. ~ “The same families that capture their children's every move with a Canon EOS-60D will also have a cheaper digital camera in their cars to supply evidence in the event of a crash. Crashes happen a lot in a country where an entire middle class is buying its first car at more or less the same time. And with every passing day, the Chinese middle class inadvertently defines itself more clearly. It protests vociferously over proposals for chemical factories, but only at the weekends. It queues for eight days for the chance to apply for a top kindergarten. Through Sina Weibo microblogs it gripes with sophistication and erudition, tweeting a stream of complaint and mockery towards China's leadership. ~

Brand Names and China's Middle Class

The rising wealth of China’s middle class has created the biggest market in the world for many multinational companies, including Apple and Volkswagen. Leo Lewis wrote in The Times, “There is not a consumer products giant, pharmaceutical group, luxury goods company, Hollywood studio or global carmaker that does not care passionately about what China's middle class wants. At the moment, the French chain Carrefour probably has the strongest lock on Chinese middle-class supermarket shoppers. Britain's Tesco is trying to wrestle them away. The contents of their fridge, which will either be a Siemens or a high-end Haier, is of special interest. White-collar parents are obsessed with food safety but have less time than ever to cook. High-end premade dumplings will do at a pinch, but the fridge will probably contain organic milk and vegetables bought to fulfil the demands of a TV chef's "quick and simple" recipe. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, March 6, 2013 ~]

Some urban Chinese have become crazy about designer labels and names. On the streets in fashionable districts in Beijing and Shanghai men wear Zegna suits and women carry Louis Vuitton bags. Burberry is a particularly valued name among the counterfeit makers. Gucci has stores in China. Armani plans 30 stores by 2006

Marketing expert Tom Doctoroff told U.S. News and World Report: “Brands are fueling the rise of the middle class in China. The Chinese have an aching ambition to climb up the ladder of success, and brands are the mark of people who have made it.”

Tommy Hilfiger opened its first store in 2002 and had 40 stores in 23 Chinese cites in 2005. Business for Adidas doubled in 2004 and almost doubled again in 2005. One university students told U.S. News and World Report he was given $62 a month for expenses school and ate nothing but instant noodles all month and used the left money to buy Nike basketball shoes.

Many buyers are chuppies and people in their 20s and 30s that live at home and have large disposable incomes. Western companies are trying very hard to establish brand loyalty at a time when many Chinese are just developing their sense of taste. A 32-year-old Chinese woman told U.S. News and World Report, “In the U.S. kids know what they like. But in China, no one in the past thought that way — what do I prefer? What do I like to do? I am just starting to figure that out now.”

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Chinese Middle Class Housing

There has been a surge of home ownership in China since laws allowing it were enacted in the late 1990s. Home ownership remained somewhat of a novelty until then but is now the norm. In 2000, 25 percent of the families in Shanghai owned their homes. In Guangzhou and Shenzen the figure was near 50 percent. By 2007, 80 percent of urban homes in China were owned by individuals.

Clifford Coonan wrote in the Irish Times, “Bian Xiaosong, who is 33, and Zhao Xiaohui, who is 32, both work for local firms and have a family income of about US$2,000 a month, which is a pretty good salary in China. In 2008 they bought an apartment in Beijing for about US$170,000, paying 20 percent down. They pay about half their income every month on their 20-year mortgage. “Sure, we feel pressure that we can hardly save our money to do other things, and we need to think carefully before we decide to have a baby. But we had no choice: we have to buy an apartment to live in, and the price has doubled now anyway,” Bian told the Irish Times. “Really, we don’t care so much about whether the price was rising up or going down, since we bought it to live in, not to invest in, unless the price fell so much that it cost less than we bought it for. All my friends bought apartments like we did; it’s our main expense. We believe the government won’t let the real-estate market collapse, especially here in Beijing, the capital. If the real-estate market collapses, the whole economy will go down.” Some people save and save and just when they think they have enough for a down payment and are ready to buy a flat, the prices surge. [Source: Clifford Coonan Irish Times, January 22, 2011]

On suburbs sought out expats and upper middle class or even upper class Chinese, Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in ”CultureShock! China”: Many people electing a quieter lifestyle will chose to live in villa compounds outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown. Villa compounds are usually built near international schools or around recreational areas like golf or tennis clubs. They provide a safe and secure area for children to play outdoors. They are the closest things to a freestanding house that you can find in China if you are yearning for a backyard and slow, unhindered sunset strolls around the neighbourhood. Oftentimes you are living in an oasis surrounded by farmland, and restaurant and shopping options are limited. Public transportation is sparse and you are reliant upon your own car (and driver) or the compound shuttle service. The suburbs are also pet friendly, many cities in China have regulations that are far stricter for pets kept downtown than those living in the suburbs. In Shanghai, it is actually illegal to walk your dog on the street during the day inside the ring road. [Source: .”CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]

Thames Town and American Middle Class Suburbs in China

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Thames Town

Western-style suburban developments outside Beijing have names like Napa Valley, Soho, Central Park, Palm Springs, and Vancouver Forest. Condominium developments in Shenyang have names like Up East Side Manhattan. Some middle class apartments are outfit with solar panels. In a middle class development near Nanjing called Stratford, a polluted river was buried underground in giant pipe while a new ornamental river, really a lake, has been built above it. Other foreign-style developments include the Balinese retreats and Italian villas in Nanjing, the Venice and Zurich in Hangzhou

Some of the developments in the suburbs of Beijing, such as Beijing Riviera, are almost exact replicas of American suburbs. Mothers watch Oprah on cable television, children drink Slurpees and play in large backyards, fathers barbecue hamburgers. The streets have names live Maple Avenue and Park Lane, with no Chinese translation. There are swimming pools and putting greens.

Shanghai is building nine satellite towns, each designed to mimic the architecture and culture of a different foreign country: Scandinavia town has Nobel Science and Technology Park. Canada Maple town has palm trees and a bridge with Roman columns. Orange County is a development about an hour outside of Beijing financed with Chinese money and designed by American architects. It features tidy cookie-cutter homes with neat lawns, Tudor facades, backyard barbecues and $500,000 price tags. In accordance with feng shui the houses are oriented towards the south with mountains to the north. As is teh custom in China the cooking is often done in a separate shack outside the main house.

Thames Town, a suburb 70 kilometers away from Shanghai downtown, contains a Gothic-look-alike church, cobblestone streets, a statue of Churchill, Georgian, Victorian and Tudor architectures the Cob Gate Fish & Chips and a piazza with guards in red uniforms.The town has become a tourist attraction with visitors thronging to have a look at the Western-style architectures and for scouting interesting corners for photography. The community is so admired brides and grooms come there in large numbers to have their wedding pictures taken. [Source: Xu Shenglan, Global Times, June 9, 2009]

Shanghai’s One City Nine-Satellite Towns program aims to relieve population pressure and break the mold of dull rural development. The one-square kilometer town has been developed into a community township incorporating a school with sporting facilities, kindergarten, club, theater, hospital and hotel. Various cultural and arts festivals, exhibitions are frequently held here. Many of the residents are foreigners who make jokes about their artificial environment but say they have chosen it because they want a safe and pleasant environment for their kids. Others are Chinese anxious to experience the American dream.

TV Drama 'Mad Men' Popular with Young Chinese Professionals

The 1960s-driven TV drama 'Mad Men', with its suave Manhattan ad man Don Draper, is popular with young Chinese professionals. Julie Makinen wrote in Los Angeles Times, “It’s not exactly 1960s nostalgia that's driving young, urbane Chinese professionals like Ken Ji, a 28-year-old from Shanghai, onto the Internet to spend hours with Don Draper, or Tang Deleibo, as he's known in Mandarin. Yet hundreds of thousands of viewers like Ji have turned the Madison Avenue period drama — which explores issues of suburban ennui and changing social mores around sexism, racism, individuality and homosexuality in the time of JFK and LBJ — into an improbable Chinese niche hit. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2012 |::|]

“While Americans may see "Mad Men" as an escapist retro-cool trip to their parents' boozy, bygone, better-dressed era, Ji and many of his fellow fans view the program through a different lens. In this country — where 63 percent of workers are exposed to cigarette smoke on the job, the divorce rate is rising as fast as GDP and boardrooms remain bastions of men who banquet — the AMC show is less like a portal to a lost past and more like an oddly relatable snapshot of the present, or maybe even the desirable future. |::|

"I think it reflects reality. You can see from 'Mad Men' that U.S. was already sort of open in the 1960s. China is developing and moving toward the stage reflected in the show," said Ji, who works in the international department of the real estate Internet portal Soufun and has watched all five seasons of the series in the last two months, many downloaded to his cellphone. "You can apply the characters in the show to people around you. Don is probably my favorite, but I like Megan too." |::| “Like "Mad Men's" characters, young white-collar workers in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are often imbued with an alluring sense of living in a nation on the rise, even as they grapple with rapid and disorienting social, cultural and economic change. Sabrina Wang, a 31-year-old senior manager in the corporate communications division of Ogilvy & Mather China, is such a fan that last year she had a "Mad Men" party at her home in Beijing and encouraged friends to come dressed like characters from the show. Wang is particularly enamored with budding feminist Peggy Olson and sexy queen bee Joan Harris, two complicated women who transform themselves from secretaries to positions of substantial power, and not just because they slept with men in the firm. "They're very confident. They are like women in China, struggling for their lives, trying to get jobs, compete with male professionals and show their talent," said Wang, whose office also threw a "Mad Men" soiree last year. |::|

“Part of the resonance of "Mad Men" in China may be that just like America in the early 1960s, there's a widely shared sense that the country is on an upward trajectory. Though there may be warning signs of choppier waters ahead, no one can fathom exactly how it will all turn out. And like in the U.S. of the '60s, the consumer culture here is growing rapaciously, and advertising is evolving from simple, direct messaging to a more creative, glamorous business of sophisticated campaigns. But while the often unprincipled principals of "Mad Men" had to contend with a new medium called television, China's ad men — and women — are now dealing with the Internet and mobile phones.” |::|

Popularity of California and UCLA in China

Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Thousands of Beijingers wake up every day in Yosemite. Hordes more have moved to Palm Springs, not to mention Orange County and Silver Lake. They shop at UCLA and go to Hollywood for a bite to eat. All without leaving the Chinese capital. When I first moved to China about a year ago, I fretted a tad about missing the Golden State and living in a country where everything had unfamiliar names. Instead, I've found it hard to escape California's good vibrations: There seems to be a little slice of home — or at least some weird or wacky reference to it — almost everywhere you turn. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2015 ]

“In Hong Kong, you can buy a villa in the Beverly Hills, a gated community whose amenities — a go-cart race track, indoor ski slope and pet hotel — appear aimed at those with 90210-type tastes and wallets. A new 27-story building in the territory's Lan Kwai Fong district, packed with restaurants and bars, is called the California Tower. Chongqing has a California Inn, and you can check into a Hotel California of one stripe or another in cities across the country (and hopefully, at some point, leave). Parents in Sichuan send tots to the California Sunshine kindergarten, while Hangzhou shoppers can engage in retail therapy at the California Sunshine mall.

“Orange County — an hour's drive north of downtown Beijing — is a housing development designed by, yes, a Newport Beach architect and built with imported American tiles and fixtures. But authenticity is hardly a prerequisite for allusion: Beijing's Silver Lake is a gated community with large, boxy houses and no hipsters, architectural pearls or reservoir. The capital's Yosemite subdivision, meanwhile, boasts a boulder out front that resembles Half Dome if you squint, but the homes are McMansion-style, not mini-Ahwahnees.

“Sure, Beijing also boasts Manhattan-minded apartment complexes: Central Park, Central Park Plaza, Soho and Park Avenue. Paris is also a popular locale to name-check. But California does stick out for the sheer multitude of shops, hotels, housing complexes and other businesses that take its inspiration from the state. A search of records at the Trademark Office of China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce found 271 companies — from clothing makers to lighting manufacturers — that have registered the word "California" as part of their name, compared with 63 that use "New York." Countless other businesses never bother to register trademarks.

Why California is So Appealing in China

"California has a strong impression among Chinese for its sunshine, beach, and relaxed lifestyle, which highlights happiness, enjoyment and indulgence," Feifei Xu, strategy director of Labbrand, a Shanghai-based branding consultancy, told the Los Angeles Times. "The perception of California as a mythical place is really strong in the minds of Chinese compared to other places in the U.S.," said Michael Tsai, a restauranteur, citing L.A.'s weather, proximity to China, prestigious universities and large population of Chinese exchange students. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2015 ]

Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Xu, the branding expert, noted that songs such as the Eagles' "Hotel California" and the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" (included on the soundtrack for Wong Kar-wai's 1994 cult classic film, "Chungking Express") have exerted a powerful influence on younger Chinese. They trigger, she said, "feelings of escape, exile and … a dreaming land." The Chinese tourists, students and investors who have gone to California in waves in recent years have returned home with visions that echo in myriad and unpredictable ways.

“Even UCLA has seen fit to capitalize on the L.A.-as-lifestyle ethos in China. Head to a mall and you might stumble upon a store called UCLA that resembles the Gap and peddles khakis and polo shirts. It's not a rip-off. The university actually licenses its name to a Chinese partner, which has more than two dozen outlets across the country.

“Cynthia Holmes, director of UCLA Trademarks & Licensing, explained that in markets such as China, "UCLA" signifies not just the university but also a whole host of positive attributes that makes the name work as an "aspirational" fashion brand with products far beyond Bruin T-shirts and caps. Ford gets ready to export Mustang to China, Europe Ford gets ready to export Mustang to China, Europe. "The Southern California location, the image that there's always sunshine, the adjacency to the Hollywood scene, Disneyland … 'UCLA' includes some of that imagery," Holmes said.”

Chinese Middle Class Flee the Cities

Reporting from Dali, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, A typical morning for Lin Liya, a native of Shanghai transplanted to this ancient town in southwest China, goes like this: See her 3-year-old son off to school near the mountains; go for a half-hour run on the shores of Erhai Lake; and browse the local market for fresh vegetables and meat. She finished her run one morning beneath cloudless blue skies and sat down with a visitor from Beijing in the lakeside boutique hotel started by her and her husband. “I think luxury is sunshine, good air and good water,” she said. “But in the big city, you can’t get those things.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, November 22, 2013 *]

“The town of Dali in Yunnan Province, nestled between a wall of 13,000-foot mountains and one of China’s largest freshwater lakes, is a popular destination. Increasingly, the indigenous ethnic Bai people of the area are leasing their village homes to ethnic Han, the dominant group in China, who turn up with suitcases and backpacks. They come with one-way tickets from places like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, all of which have roaring economies but also populations of 15 million people or more. On Internet forums, the new arrivals to Dali discuss how to rent a house, where to shop, how to make a living and what schools are best for their children. Their presence is everywhere in the cobblestone streets of the old town. They run cafes, hotels and bookstores, and the younger ones sit on the streets selling trinkets from blankets. *\

“One magnet is the village of Shuanglang, which became a draw after the famous Yunnan natives Yang Liping, a dancer, and Zhao Qing, an artist, built homes there. As at other lakeside villages, the immigrants, some with immense wealth, live near fishermen and farmers. “All kinds of people come here with different dreams,” said Ye Yongqing, 55, an ethnic Bai artist from the region who has lived mostly in cities, including London, but bought a home here five years ago. “Some people imagine this place as Greece or Italy or Bali.” “Dali is one of the few places in China that still has a close tie to the earth,” he added, sitting in front of a table of squashes in his garden courtyard. “A lot of villages in China have become empty shells. Dali is a survivor of this phenomenon.” *\

“Ms. Lin said she first fell in love with Dali when she came as a backpacker in 2006. She returned twice before moving here. In 2010, on the third visit, she and her husband, whom she had met trekking in Yunnan, looked for land to lease to build a hotel on Erhai Lake. It has not all been easy going, Ms. Lin said, citing negotiations and misunderstandings with local officials, villagers and employees. “We just wanted to switch to a different life,” said Ms. Lin, who had lived in Shanghai as well as Guangzhou. “My friends in Shanghai are struggling there — not only in their work, but also just to live. The prices are too high, even higher than in Europe. They become crazy, go mad.” *\

“Ms. Lin moved here less than two years after giving birth to a son. “It’s good for the baby because it’s like my mother’s childhood,” she said. “My mother’s childhood in Shanghai — the air was still clean, you could see blue skies, there was clean water.” That is a common refrain among parents here. One afternoon, four mothers, all urban refugees, sat outside a bookstore cafe, Song’s Nest, practicing English with one another. “The one thing we all have in common is we moved here to raise our children in a good environment,” one woman said. *\

“The bookshop’s owner, Song Yan, moved here this year and translates books by an Indian philosopher popular with Chinese spiritual seekers. One night, she and another translator and urban refugee, Zheng Yuantao, 33, talked over dinner about their moves. “I’ve never felt so free in my life,” Mr. Zheng said. “I grew up as a city boy, and I never realized how much I like living close to nature.” *\

“From the nearby lakeside village of Caicun, Huang Xiaoling, a photographer, flies back to Beijing to shoot portraits and events for clients. She had once lived in a courtyard home in the Chinese capital, but fled in September with her 3-year-old son and husband, an American who works remotely as a technology director for a New York publishing company. “I’m still productive even though I don’t go into an office,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the weather and the environment, or just me feeling that, ‘Oh, I got out of the cave that I wanted to escape.’ ” *\

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Image Sources: Cgstcok photos and Changsan Motors, Wiki Commons, Reuters and China Daily

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2021


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