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Cartiers in Beijing
The rich in China are generally characterized as thinking only about money and themselves and having little a social conscience. Many are quite ostentatious with their wealth. They run around in expensive cars; live in gaudy mansions; send their children abroad to school so they can brag about it; wear flashy clothes and diamond studded Rolexes; and act with a certain haughtiness that comes with knowing that in China having money allows one to behave as if they are above the law. A lot of people with money travel around with an entourage.

Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in “CultureShock! China”: At the top tier of Chinese society is a variegated group that, again, more resembles the multi-layered elite of developed societies. China has sports, films and theatre stars.There are also rich entrepreneurs who have created business empires and now enjoy the fruits — and limelight — success brings. Aside from that, there are top government officials and leaders. Increasingly, Chinese elites are similar to wealthy jet-setters of any society. They may maintain apartments in Shanghai or Beijing, and country homes. They may vacation in Hawaii or Paris or the beaches of Thailand. They may travel frequently on business trips to New York, Tokyo or Frankfurt. They may have impeccably old-money sorts of tastes, or they may favor bright colours and gilding reminiscent of the last emperors, and laugh at any who call them nouveau-riche. [Source: “CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]

China is now one of the main consumers of Rolls Royces. In 2006, demand in China for the new $381,000 Phantoms was so high that Rolls Royce hired 200 new employees and required existing workers to put in double shifts. Items offered at the Shanghai Millionaire’s Fair include diamond-studded cell phones, French chocolates and $100,000 purebred dogs. At the second annual fair in 2007. 11,000 people showed up.Italian luxury brands are highly sought after. One woman at a luxury shopping mall in Shanghai told Reuters, “I definitely would not buy any named brand products that are “Made in China “...It’s a real turn off...If you are rich and buy fakes, you would really lose face.”

Many Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs are settling abroad. The Chinese edition of Vogue is so thick with advertisements you have to be a weightlifter to carry it. Wealthy Shanghai ladies sit in the front rows at Paris fashion shows, where movies stars and European nobility once sat. In 2011, vending machine in rich shopping areas of Beijing began selling gold bullion. [Source: The Times.]

Hurun Report ; Forbes Rich Chinese List ; Forbes Lists ; Expert: Huang Yasheng, who teaches at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is an expert on Chinese entrepreneurs.

Big Spending Chinese

Many of the big spenders in Ginza in Tokyo these days are Chinese, snapping up designer-label goods by the dozen and dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars in single shopping spree. There are so many of them in fact that stores have began hiring Chinese-speaking staff. A survey in 2009 by the Global Research Fund based tax-refunded tourist spending found that Chinese have displaced Russians as the biggest shoppers in France

The Chinese are challenging Russians and Middle Easterners for the title of the biggest spenders in London’s West End. According to figures kept by the New West End Company, which keeps track of sales on Bond, Oxford and Regent Streets in London , the average Chinese shopper spends $1,300 and were spending 21 percent more in 2009 than they were in 2008 and spending almost $1,500 per person on Bond Street, more than Americans, slightly less than Russians and a few hundred less than Middle Easterners.

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Fendi fashion show at the Great Wall
According to Jane Tyrell of New West End Company, the Chinese market “is relatively new. Like many emerging market the rich come first. Then as the middle class gets money, they start traveling too. These groups want luxury — top-end jewelry and designer suits. For us its smaller in volume, but much higher in terms of what the transactions are worth to us.”

There are so many super rich Chinese that China is now one of the hottest markets for private planes even though flight restrictions make them difficult to use in China. Many private planes have no legal identity and are flown secretly with out their flight plan being reported to air traffic controllers.

The rich in China are buying more and more luxury boats. As of 2010 there were about 1,000 Chinese-owned luxury yachts mored around China. That number is expect to rise to 10,000 by 2015. The head of the China Cruise and Yacht Association told AFP, rich Chinese businessmen “want to go out on the ocean and have fun — and take VIP clients and negotiate deals.” Power boats are more popular than sailboats mainly because they are easier to operate.

Increasing demand for race horses from China is breathing fresh life into Japanese stud farms. Organizations and wealthy Chinese organize horse races while riding and polo are becoming popular among the rich. A single horse farm in Jilin bought over 100 horses from Hokkaido stud farms. In Hokkaido in Japan, Chinese are buying up vacation homes near golf courses and ski resorts at bargain prices and purchasing troubled manufacturers of ski-wear and golf clubs (Phoenix and Homma Golf) to go along with them.

How China’s Rich Spend Their Money

Clifford Coonan wrote in the Irish Times: A few floors down in one of Shanghai’s ritziest hotels, at a showcase fair for China’s luxury-minded billionaires, Norah Jones warbles softly through Harman Kardon speakers as Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of the Hurun Report, which counts China’s wealthy and analyses what they do, lists off the brands favored by the country’s rich: Patek Philippe watches, Mercedes E-Class cars, Gulfstream jets, Armani suits, Azimut yachts and Louis XIII brandy. [Source: Clifford Coonan Irish Times, January 22, 2011]

“They also like to spend money on diamonds — no surprise there — wine, travel and their children’s education, a message that our universities are well aware of as they try to woo Chinese students to study in Ireland. More than 50 per cent of rich parents are sending their children to schools in the US and Britain. Canada is ranked third, followed by Switzerland.

“More than 50 per cent of the mainland’s wealthiest, who each have assets of more than 10 million yuan ($1.57 million), spend between one million yuan ($157,000) and three million yuan ($,,000) every year, and own more than three cars. These cars — the white BMW 7-Series, the black Audi A6 models with extended wheelbases, the Porsche Cayenne SUVs — throng China’s fabulous new network of motorways.

“Even more than watches, or cars, or yachts, what China’s wealthy people like to buy is property. Their main investment choice is real estate. Half of the richest people on the Chinese mainland are spending at least a million yuan ($157,000) a year, mainly on real estate, luxury watches and diamonds, and Rupert Hoogewerf, head of the Hurun research group, says this shows that luxury brands have a very special place here. “Lots of people like to receive luxury brands to improve their status. It’s a noticeable trend,” Hoogewerf says. “The time for China to learn from Europe is over. People here are becoming better educated. They are getting to know luxury brands that are not even familiar to some Europeans.”

“Ni Xiao owns a chain of shops and spends a lot of his money on the stock market. “My monthly outgoings are about 100,000 yuan [$15,700], which I spend on eating, entertainment and my girlfriends. I travel a lot to the US. I probably spend about a third of my time there. My annual income is about four million yuan [$629,100], and I own a few apartments in Beijing and Shanghai.” Zhang Hongli, marketing manager of a publishing company, owns two apartments in Beijing and one in her home town, in Hubei province. “I never spend more than 100,000 yuan [$157,000] a year on luxury items, which is about a third of my income,” she says. Zhang Yue, an actor, spends between 30,000 yuan ($4,720) and 50,000 yuan ($7,860) on shopping each month. “Most of this is on luxury brands, because as an actress I need it. Together my husband and I spend about a million yuan [$157,000] a year, and we change our cars frequently. My annual income is more than 500,000 yuan [$78,000], and we own five or six apartments here in Beijing.” Mr Yang, a marketing manager in a foreign company, is buying a present for his girlfriend in the China World Trade center shopping mall. “My monthly expense is around 30,000 yuan [$4,720 ], and my annual income is around 600,000 yuan [$94,000]. I seldom buy luxury things for myself, but, as all girls love Louis Vuitton bags or Chanel, sometimes I buy this for my girlfriend. My expense on luxury things is about 100,000 yuan [$15,700] to 150,000 yuan [$23,600] per year.”

China’s Newly Rich Flaunting Their Wealth

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It is not uncommon to find company bosses who drive around in $100,000 BMWs to be in their mid or late 20s. In the 2000s, young people with money flock to the Babyface club on Guangzhou’s Pearl River and drink $12 Flaming Lamborghinis, one of the clubs most popular drinks. Explaining why a new golf clubhouse in Ningpo was being built next to perfectly fine 10-year-old one, an employee at the golf club explained, “Rich people in Ningo are quite young. It’s not like the U.S. where rich people tend to be older. Things in China change so fast, you have to build quickly. You have to renew your stuff very quickly to catch the new people.” The developers Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, a married couple, are regarded as the king and queen of the Beijing nouveau riche elite. At the Olympics they hosted a party for over 1,000 of their best friends and business contact at the Commune at the Great Wall. Among those in attendance were media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi Deng and CEO Robin Li.

Keith B. Richburg wrote in the Washington Post, China’s newly rich love luxury products — imported French handbags, Italian sports cars — and even more, they love to show off their bling. That seems to be creating headaches for China’s communist rulers, who after three decades of exhorting their subjects to get rich are facing growing discontent over a widening income gap. Officials now talk about making sure wealth is more evenly distributed, and how to get the rich to tone it down. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, August 18 2011]

It doesn’t help the government’s case when the rich keep showing off their bling. Exhibit A might be a 20-year-old woman calling herself “Guo Meimei Baby.” Guo — whose name “Meimei” means “Pretty, pretty” — became a recent Internet sensation in China, and prompted a national scandal, when she posted photos of herself on her microblog posing with her collection of imported Hermes handbags and showing off her white Maserati sports car, called “little horse,” and her (married) boyfriend’s orange Lamborghini, called “little bull.”

The initial outrage was over suspicion that she was linked to China’s largest, government-run charity. But many here said the “Guo Meimei scandal,” as the story became known, exposed a common, and unflattering, aspect of China’s headlong rush to get rich: a tendency among China’s new super-rich to show off how much money they have. “People like showing off their wealth,” said Yang Xu, who runs a shop called Vogue 2 that specializes in secondhand designer handbags. “The consumption of luxury products has grown too fast. It’s beyond anybody’s imagination.” In his shop, for example, Hermes bags have become more popular than the Louis Vuitton brands for a simple reason: They are more expensive.

Experts say the phenomenon of showing off wealth is a complex one, rooted in China’s long struggles with poverty and famine and a sense that expensive possessions confer a higher social status. ‘showing off wealth shows that China’s economic development has not been long, and Chinese society’s psychology of consumption is still not mature,” said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “In China, wealth is the only criteria to measure social status. People hope to show they have a higher social status by wearing luxurious brands.”

Many of those who show off tend to be the newly rich, and they are often young — the children of wealthy parents, the “rich second generation,” or young women with wealthy boyfriends or suitors. “They want other people to look up to them,” Ouyang said of the Guo Meimei phenomenon. “They want people to know that other people love them and take care of them.” “The deeper reason for this showing-off phenomenon in China is that luxury products help your personal confidence,” Ouyang said. “If you wear designer clothes, or carry a designer shopping bag, people will give you more respect. A bartender will give you excellent service. . . . If you go shopping or to have lunch, an Hermes bag is like your ID card — it’s a really important ID card.”

Homes for the Rich

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Xujiahui Grand Gateway in Shanghai

Suburban developments have sprung that cater to the nouveau riche. The Palace de Fortune is a development with 172 small, French-style mock chateaux squeezed on to a 33-hectare plot of land outside Shanghai. Buyers pay an average of $2.6 million for 1,500 square meter shells and pay extra for the interior walls, bathrooms, kitchen and decorations. Spaces have been set aside for swimming pools and three car garages. n Beijing there are $1 million homes in in gated communities with names like Versailles, Provence, Arcadia, and Riviera and $800,000 luxury apartments in complexes named Central Park and Riverside.

An elite villa compound called Shanghai Racquet Club and Apartment found itself at the center of a storm when bloggers published a set of rules that required domestic servants, cleaners and babysitters to vacate their seats on the bus to villa residents and “take up rear bus seats” if the residents wanted their seats. In March 2009, an unknown buyer paid $30 million for a fully-furnished, 4,000-square-meter villa in Shanghai’s Shimao Sheshan development, the most ever paid for a residential property in China. The record on square meter basis in 51,000 yuan per square matter for 130 million luxury apartments in the Tomson Riveria complex in central Shanghai.

In recent years rich Chinese have begun buying up chateaus in France such the Chateau Richelieu, formally owned by King Louis XIII’s famous minister. The new owners have plans to market wines from the chateau’s vineyards in China. Some rich suffered in the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. Others saw it as an opportunity. In 2008, there were reports of cash-rich Chinese in Hummers and Lincoln Navigators driving around in neighborhoods throughout the United States, and particularly in California, looking for foreclosure signs and snapping up properties at bargain prices. There were even organized property-prospecting tours to places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where property markets have been hit particularly hard. Similar stories were told of the Japanese in Hawaii the 1980s. Some buy property so their kids have places to stay when they study in the United States. Others buy properties as investments, often paying in cash with $1 million or more at their disposal.

Luxury Car Consumers in China

In 2011, Chinese bought more Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces than anybody else in the world. In time for Chinese New Year this month, Rolls is unveiling a "Year of the Dragon" model with hand-embroidered versions of mythical animals on leather headrests. Prices start at $1.6 million. When Zheng Huizhong was growing up in the Henan countryside, he was proud his father owned a three-wheeled farm tractor. Back in the 1970s, that was as automated — and fast — as most people could get in rural China. Today, however, he is out shopping on Beijing's swanky Jinbao (Treasure) Street for an addition to his Bentley and cannot quite decide which 300km/h (190mph) sports car to splash out on. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian July 11, 2011; Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2012]

It is an increasingly familiar story as ranks of wealthy Chinese move from bike to Bentley and moped to Merc in a generation. This has not only transformed the streets of Beijing, it is reshaping the business strategies of the world's biggest carmakers. "I like Aston Martins because I used to watch James Bond films. But I think I prefer Ferrari, even though they are more expensive," Zheng, the former farm boy, who has made a fortune as a yacht salesman, said. Each of these cars cost more than 4m yuan [£390,000] but price is not Zheng's main concern. "Turning heads with a luxury car is not as easy as it used to be. They are common now. Many people can afford them," he says. "So I focus on comfort."

Jinbao Street,a leafy promenade between the Forbidden City and the central business district which aims to be Beijing’s Ginza district, feature is a clutch of car showrooms. One side of the street is home to Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Jaguar and BMW. On the other, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Mercedes. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian July 11, 2011] Most of these luxury brands have only moved in within the past few years, but the chief outlets on this street — and others like it in Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou — have rapidly become the leading profit centres for the world's prestige carmakers.

Maserati and Lamborghini have introduced uncharacteristic SUVs with the Chinese market in mind, after the success of Porsche Cayenne SUV in China. In 2011 more Rolls Royces were old in China than anywhere else in the world. The car company has stepped up its marketing effort in China so that a purchaser of a $1 million Bentley Mulsanne can now drive the car out of the show room the same day of purchase (only a few years before one had to wait 10 months for such a car. The new Rolls Royce Phantom II series includes special holders for champagne flutes that are intended to “elevate the spirit of ecstacy to a new level of sensory indulgence” among Chinese buyers. [Source: The Times.]

Sales of ultra-luxury vehicles in China have increased by 30 percent a year. Bentley sells more cars in China than in Britain, with China accounting for 25 percent of its sales. Mercedes-Benz opened a new design studio in Beijing. Mercedes — one of the first foreign firms into the market — announced the highest monthly worldwide car sales in the company's 110-year history which it attributed to sales in China. . BMW has also just attributed its best ever six-monthly sales to high demand in China.

Audi — another early arrival sold more than 200,000 cars in China last year, nearly overtaking Germany as its biggest market. Its vehicles are now the must-have status symbol for Communist party cadres and government officers. According to the finance ministry, the government spent 86 billion yuan last year on official cars. Audi have tried to cement their hold on this lucrative niche by customising models with temperature-controlled holders for the tea-flasks carried around by officials.

In 2010, Lamborghini sales tripled in China to 247 cars, Rolls-Royce's rose 146 percent to 678 cars — overtaking the UK and on course to soon surpass the US. "It will only be a matter of time before the market becomes the largest market in the world for the company," Jenny Zheng, general manager of Rolls-Royce' regional office, told China Daily. Bentley's sales almost doubled to nearly 1,000 cars, making it the firm's third-biggest market. Porsche — which has been in China for 10 years sold 13,800 cars, up 60 percent from 2009. In recognition of where growth is coming from, Volkswagen, which encompasses the Audi, Bentley and Bugatti marques, plans to invest an extra $15bn (£9.3bn) in a joint venture by 2015. [Source: China Daily]

Luxury car ownership has distinct Chinese characteristics. On average, Chinese owners are 10 years younger than their counterparts in the United States and Europe. They are also more likely to be women. Fiat estimates the percentage of women buying its Maserati models in China is triple that of Europe, while the percentage buying its Ferraris is double the global average. Regardless of the jams, China's nouveaux riches increasingly flaunt their wealth on the roads, much to the envy of others. Among the most widely circulated photographs on the internet in recent years are those of the ostentatious wedding parades for the daughters of Shanxi coal barons. One reportedly featured a parade of four Rolls-Royce Phantoms, four Ferraris, six Mercedes Benz, six Bentleys, 20 Audi Quattros, six Jeeps, a Hummer plus several BMWs, Porsches and Range Rovers. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian July 11, 2011]

Luxury Club at the Forbidden City


Fierce criticism was generated after the discovery of an exclusive club in the Forbidden City's Jianfu Palace, where memberships were reported to cost as much as 1 million yuan ($153,846). It was also reported that the management team of Beijing's White Dagoba, or Beita Temple, which has been selected as one of China's Important Historical Monuments under Special Preservation, has rented part of its temple houses to two companies. One runs a high-end restaurant, where the average consumption per person is 920 yuan ($142.05) and non-dining tourists are not allowed to enter, while the other sells tatty artifacts like Buddha statues, persuading tourists to buy thousand-yuan goods with the threat of bad luck otherwise. He Pei, management director of the White Dagoba, responded Monday that the rooms in question do not belong to the protected area. He added that the restaurant has been appointed a Five Star Tourism Restaurant by the Beijing Tourism Bureau, and is an expansion of the temple's "service functions." [Source: Mao Renjie, Global Times June 6, 2011]

According to He, the White Dagoba collects 1 million yuan ($154,400) rent every year from the restaurant and most of it has been spent on "relic protection." He said that government funding for the temple is less than 100,000 yuan ($15,440) a year, while the actual cost of keeping the tourism site running and renovated exceeds 700,000 yuan ($108,08). The 20-year contracts have strict regulations, forbidding changes to architectural structures and the temple can immediately suspend contracts if any illegal actions are conducted.

In 2020, two women posing with a Mercedes S.U.V. parked in a forbidden area of the Forbidden City in Beijing set off similar firestorm. Javier Hernandez wrote in the New York Times: “The photos prompted outrage almost as soon as they were posted. They showed two women inside one of China’s most sacred spaces, the Forbidden City in Beijing, smiling as they showed off a glistening Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle. On Weibo, a Twitterlike site, one of the women bragged about getting exclusive access to the palace, a notoriously congested tourist site, saying she had gone there to “run wild.” “Many people denounced the woman, who had frequently boasted about her wealth on social media, as being out of touch. They said she had desecrated the Forbidden City, the former home of emperors, which Mr. Xi has sought to turn into a global symbol of Chinese cultural heritage. “Don’t roll your privileges over China’s face, ” wrote a Weibo user named Ding Lei. [Source: Javier Hernandez, New York Times, January 18, 2020]

Bodyguards in China

Li Haicang ran a steel company that accounted for two thirds of the economic activity in Wenxi, a city of 340,000 in northern Shanxi province. Once listed as No. 27 on the Forbes list, with assets of around $200 million, he provided jobs, built roads and schools and served on a number of government and civic organizations. Taxes from his businesses accounted for much of the local government’s revenues. His reign of power ended when a friend from his school days pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and shot him in the head and then shot himself because Haicang wouldn’t sell him land to build a factory.

The large number or rich in China has also resulted in a growing presence of bodyguards. Rather than being big, musclebound behemoths that bulge out of their suits and are meant to intimidate, Chinese bodyguard tend be unimposing, relying on martial skills rather than firearms or brawn, Many try to bled in as drivers, nannies, private secretaries. A surprisingly number are women. [Source: Keith Richburg, Washington Post, September 22, 2010]

Micheal Zhe of Beijing VSS Security Consulting Ltd, told the Washington Post , “In China, we don’t need people who know guns. Bodyguards can use one or two blows to stop an attacker,” Chen Yongchin of Tianjiao Special protection said, “If they?re too big, it would be too obvious. We can get lost in the crowd.” He said 40 percent of his body guards are women. One stands 5 feet four and weighs 121 pounds told the Post, “When we practice I fight two guys, no problem.” She specializes in guarding Chinese and Hong Kong celebrities.

VSS Security was founded in 2002 and is regarded as China’s oldest private security firm. When Zhe started the company he had few rivals. As of the end of 2009, there were 2,767 firms employing more than two million security guards in an industry valued at $1.2 billion. These figures reflect not only he high number of rich but also the concerns that the rich have as the gap between them and the poor grows and cases of kidnaping and violence have increased.

Ni Shoubin, a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, told the Washington Post, “The booming of the security industry reflects the rich people’s worry about the safety of their families and themselves. The population is disgruntled by how these rich people are becoming rich, and all society has started to hate the rich. And rich people must feel that resentment, and it make them feel insecure.” The private security business has grown so much and so fast and there are so many fly-by-night operations out there as well as ones that hire out thugs and enforcers that the Chinese government is starting make some effort to regulate and bring the private security industry under some kind of control. Going hand and hand with these trends is the desire of the wealthy to keep a low profile and refrain from flaunting their wealth.

Hobbies of the Rich in China

According to AFP: “Among the privileged minority, chosen sports are indicative of status — usually tennis and golf to start off with, graduating to skiing or riding. But equestrian sports are far beyond most people's budgets, he says, with riding courses generally costing "250 to 400 yuan per hour plus coaching fee" and needing 30 hours to complete. For more populist disciplines — in particular racing — the picture is different.[Source: Agence France Presse, July 31, 2014]

The Chinese elite enjoy golf, skiing and even polo. In a survey in 2007 rich Chinese listed traveling as their top leisure activity while spending time with their families places a distant seventh. In another survey 67 percent of millionaires said they were sacrificing their health for money. Horse breeding and riding are becoming increasingly popular among China’s nouveau riche. The owner of Beijing door factory, who own three thoroughbreds, told AFP, “Horse are a hobby for me, not investment objects. Riding is a form of communication without language, where man and horse try to understand each other.

In 2008, there were more than 100 riding clubs in the Beijing area, up from 80 a year before. The Equuleus International Riding Club was founded near an upscale villa compounds outside of Beijing in the 1990s mainly to meet the needs of the expatriate community but now is used mostly by wealthy Chinese. Many of its 100 or so horses are retirees from the jockey clubs in Hong Kong and Macao.

China's Wealthy Embrace Polo

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Audi sports car
In July 2014, AFP reported: “Gripping his mallet, Peng Zhichun gallops towards goal on a Chinese polo field, one of a growing number of the country's wealthy elite discovering the joys of the saddle and the whip. "New clubs are opening, people are more into equestrian sports, into polo, there are more international players coming, so it's growing really fast," the young man, dressed in an expensive leather helmet, boots and white trousers, said after dismounting. Peng, who was taking part in a luxury lifestyle event in the northern port of Dalian earlier this month, spent several years in the United States and is typical of China's emerging upper class, with a keen interest in travel and Western leisure activities. [Source: Agence France Presse, July 31, 2014 ==]

“In June, Shanghai hosted a stage of the Longines Global Champions Tour for the first time, a five-star showjumping event, the highest in the International Equestrian Federation's rankings. At Beijing's Tango Polo Club members are "select" and wealthy, says deputy chairman Chen Xie, and their numbers are growing steadily. "Polo is special. Members have to be rich enough to afford the membership. Courage is also needed as you can see, the sport is quite fast, intense and dangerous on the field," he told AFP. "The major customers are those above white-collar workers, say, entrepreneurs, or at least 'golden-collars'." ==

“It is undoubtedly a rich man's game. Club members have spent as much as three million yuan ($500,000) on a polo pony, and in one case 80 million yuan on a racehorse, Chen said — sums which are lifestyle expenses rather than investments. "Horses are like humans, they go down in value when they pass their peak." ==

Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Sara Jane Ho, founder of the high-end Beijing finishing school Institute Sarita, took a group of 50 to Tianjin” to learn about polo. "We have a class called Introduction to Noble or Expensive Sports. So we teach our clients how to understand a game of golf, horse riding, dressage, polo, skiing — we break down the mechanics of it," she said. "A lot of them are just completely clueless." Ho's seminar covers the history of polo, its rules and equipment, its connection to royalty and even how to dress as a spectator. "What Chinese people struggle with most with polo is what to wear. A lot of Chinese men, they think that a suit is the answer to everything. They don't know how to do smart-casual occasions. And for Chinese women … we have a very meticulous handout. For example, no stilettos."

After their afternoon in VIP seats, Ho said, several of the women expressed interest in Tianjin's summer polo camp for their children. "Now that Chinese people are rich, they are trying to adopt a high measure of quality of life. They are holding themselves to higher standards," she said. "They also want to earn the respect of other people around the world." [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2014]

Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club

Describing an event at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “In the clubhouse, a shiny, white, life-size horse mannequin stood harnessed to a red-and-gold carriage straight out of a Cinderella storybook. At the wine bar showcasing bottles from France and Napa Valley's Sloan Estate, a quartet of foreigners belted out "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)." Upstairs, VIPs, including the ambassadors from Chile and Argentina, sipped Champagne and grazed on foie gras, Peking duck and Spanish jamon. Outside, on a polo field covered with man-made snow, Team England was riding to victory over Chile in semifinals of the 10-day, 12-team tournament. "I was really surprised to come here the first time and find all this," said Guillermo Terrera, an Argentine who suited up for the three-man Hong Kong China squad (alongside another Argentine and a Brit). "The organization is first-class." [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2014 /=/]

“Basic memberships to the club — where "the new nobility gathers," according to the brochure — start at $165,000.” The club hosted the Snow Polo World Cup 2014 and “plans to host three other polo events this year, including a summer inter-varsity tournament with teams from U.S. and British schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge. So far, the club has more ponies (200) than members (about 60), and is buying 80 more horses from abroad this year (much to the delight of the ambassador from Argentina). The club will eventually boast three fields as well as an indoor arena, where even the specially engineered sand is imported from Britain. /=/

“If it sounds like a major outlay, it's a drop in the bucket considering the $10 billion that Lee said Goldin is spending on the entire Tianjin development. Besides the homes, the polo club and a 167-room private hotel for club members, the company is building 10 office towers and a 117-story, 1,958-foot skyscraper (the third-tallest in China), due to be completed by 2016. "Be sure to visit the pavilion on your way out and see the wonderful villas here at Fortune Heights!" the polo announcer boomed during a break in the action.” /=/

Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club also runs a summer camp for kids. On that Emily Rauhala wrote in Washington Post: On a hazy summer morning in July, a tiny figure climbed up a stepladder and wriggled onto a white mare named Wendy. The rider: a red-cheeked child who gave his name, in English, as, “I’m Harry and I’m 8. Harry took the reins in two hands and urged Wendy to a trot. Later, with help from a half-dozen professionals from Argentina, he practiced the tougher, one-handed polo grip, perched, like a young knight, on the back of a wooden horse.” The kids at the camp spent refining their riding skills, reviewing polo etiquette and racing down the halls of the luxury hotel that doubled as their cabin. Two full-time photographers — summer-camp paparazzi — captured every move for parents and grandparents keen to see what you get for 10,000 renminbi, or about $1,500 a week.

Chinese parents hope a luxury polo camp for kids will lead to elite universities For the horse-riding Harrys of the country, that means summers spent honing skills that will serve them well when they make it to Oxford or Cambridge universities, or the Ivy League. Even for the ultra-wealthy — the type that can skip the gaokao and head straight for the SAT — summer programming comes with a focus on the future. At polo camp in Tianjin, between hitting practice and pastry breaks, cooking class and equestrian, children learn about what it takes to get a world-class education at a brand-name school. “Hey, what college did you go to?” 12-year-old Chloe said as she skipped to lunch in her riding boots. “I’m going to Harvard.” [Source: Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, September 8, 2016]

Belgian Racing Pigeons for Rich Chinese

Reporting from Kortrijk, Belgium, Philippe Siuberski of AFP wrote: Rich Chinese pigeon fanciers are offering tens of thousands of euros to buy Belgian champions, to the despair of local pigeon-lovers unable to compete in such sky-high auction bids. Pigeon-breeding is an old Chinese passion, even though long-distance pigeon-racing has never caught on the way it has in northern Europe. Pigeon racing in China goes back to the Ming dynasty, when they were used as carrier pigeons. Banned during the Cultural Revolution, it made a comeback in the 1970s. According to Chinese state media, there are about 300,000 people in the country involved in the sport.[Source: Philippe Siuberski, AFP, March 10, 2012]

In January 2012, a rich Chinese industrialist Hun Zhen Yu came to Europe and paid 250,000 euros ($328,000) for "Special Blue", a world record for a champion of legend. The bird's former owner, Pieter Veenstra from Holland, has sold 245 pigeons over the past few years for more than two million euros, according to the specialised Pigeon Paradise (PIPA) website which claims that half its customers are from China.

Rich Chinese fanciers will pay very large amounts "if the pigeon has won several prizes and is of good lineage," said Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the head of PIPA, speaking on the sidelines of the second world pigeon fair in Kortrijk, Belgium. "I think Belgium is the kingdom of homing pigeons," said one of the fair's visitors, Johnson Kiang from Taiwan. But not everyone is pleased by the Chinese invasion. "I find it too expensive. 200,000 euros, that's not a normal price," said Marcel Candenir, who travelled to the fair from Lille in northern France. "It's daft, it's killing the sport, how do you expect a young person to start out?" asked fellow Frenchman Gilles Vanneuville.

Willy Anquinet, a 75-year-old from the village of Gooik, near Brussels, fell victim to this new golden goose-like craze. In early February, one of his champions — the "Black" — was stolen from his pigeon loft. "I'd been offered 15,000 euros (19,600 dollars), but I wanted 20,000 so that I could buy a new car," he said. A few days after a visit by would-be customers, "the lock to the pigeon loft was broken". "They stole "Black" and tried to take another, but just broke its wing," he said, saddened by the loss both of his champion, and by the injury that will force the second bird to retire from competition.

Marc De Cock, who owns 600 pigeons in Temse, northern Belgium, has invested in a top-of-the-range secure lock-up for his birds, some of which are worth 100,000 euros. They are watched by 15 video cameras, have their own shower and solarium, a sort of sauna for pigeons, and are treated like top sport champions. De Cock is looking to sell many of his birds to Asian clients. "The Chinese attach a lot of importance to prestige. Even if they don't want to breed them, or race them, they want to buy a luxury pigeon much like an art collector would like to buy a Rubens or a Rembrandt," said De Cock who remains very discreet about his earnings.

Human Breast Milk Popular Drink among Shenzhen Rich

In July 2013, Chris Luo wrote in the South China Morning Post, “While many Chinese parents continue to struggle to find safe and trusted milk powder for their babies, some in Shenzhen are paying to enjoy a new “nourishment” – human breast milk – and a few of them are doing so by breast feeding, according to Chinese media. Increasing numbers of adults have been hiring wet nurses so they can consume breast milk for its nutritional value, Lin Jun, a manager of Xinxinyu Household Service Company in the southern city of Guangdong, told the Southern Metropolis Daily . Lin went on to say that his company is promoting and expanding its breast milk supply business from babies to adults, the newspaper reported. [Source: Chris Luo, South China Morning Post, July 2, 2013 **]

“Clients can choose to consume breast milk directly through breastfeeding … but they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel uncomfortable,” the paper quoted Lin as saying. He claimed breast milk was now popular among adults with high incomes and high-pressure jobs and who suffered from poor health. “Quite a few of our clients hire in-house wet nurses to ensure a supply of fresh breast milk on a daily base,” Lin said in the report, adding “wet nurses rarely raise objections as long as the price is right.” **

“A spokesperson for the company who refused to be identified claimed the report was entirely false, insisting his company’s household services did not include recommending wet nurses. The allegations were malicious gossip aimed at driving his company out of business, he told the South China Morning Post. However, Xinxinyu Household Service Company’s advertisements can be seen on a number of marketing websites, promoting the high quality services of its wet nurses, as well as its nannies, stewards, confinement nurses and tutors. The advertisements state that the company’s wet nurses can provide services to adults in poor health. Photos online show wet nurses and staff with what appear to be company logos on the walls. **

“According to the newspaper report, a wet nurse who provides breast milk to adults can earn an average monthly wage of 16,000 yuan (HK$20,238). A healthy and attractive wet nurse can earn even more, the paper was told. The claims seem to be supported by adverts placed by Xinxinyu on at least one recruitment website for positions of wet nurses with monthly salaries of between 12,000 to 20,000 yuan. “Consuming human breast milk is quite popular among my social circle … spending 10,000 to 20,000 yuan hiring a wet nurse is not uncommon at all,” Southern Metropolis Daily also quoted an anonymous client as saying, “although only a few people would suck breast milk directly from a wet nurses’ nipples.” **

“The anonymous client said he paid 15,000 yuan to a wet nurse and had her live at his home for a month, according to the report. Legal experts have warned that the practice may be a form of sexual service. “There is an essential difference between sucking on a breast and drinking from a pump, as the former largely exceeds the necessity of diet,” Guangdong lawyer Mei Chunlai said. But Shenzhen police told the paper that it would be difficult to prove if the act was a sex crime as it was hard to acquire evidence. **

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Try to Convince China’s Wealthy to Donate to Charity

In October 2010,Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a private dinner for dozens of China’s richest people, encouraging them to donate to charities. The setting was said to be a full-scale replica of the Château Lafite, complete with Greek statuary, a moat and its own wild duckpond. Many of the billionaires were initially excited about meeting Gates and Buffett but some of the them backed out of the dinner when it began circulating they might have to pledge large chunks of their fortunes to charity. When that happened the media and netizens began accusing the wealthy of being tight and questions were raised as to who was actually invited. [Sources: William Wan, Washington Post, September 19, 2010, The Guardian, Tania Branigan, September 29, 2010]

But as the case with many things in China all is not what it seems to be. Greed may have held some back but there was also the Communist Party to consider, Li Huafang of the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law told the Washington Post, “One thing holding back philanthropy may be the reluctance among the rich. But the other is the worry of the government. They don’t want other entities competing with them for the people’s hearts.” Gates and Buffett, who have asked US billionaires to commit to leave most of their wealth to charity, wrote to guests to assure them the dinner was not a fundraiser. They said they merely wanted to promote charity development. Although he is not one of China’s richest men the actor Jet Li confirmed he would meet Gates and Buffett. Li is one of China's best-known philanthropists thanks to his One Foundation. He recently highlighted the difficulties such groups face when he said its future was uncertain due to its blurry legal status, telling state broadcaster CCTV that soon “it will be questioned by those who seek more transparency and professionalism in China's charity development.”

In 2014, Bill Gates reiterated the message with more pressure on Chinese government, saying China should do more to encourage wealthy Chinese to donate to charitable causes and to make philanthropy a common practice China. Reuters reported: “Gates, who runs the $38 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said he thought people in China would take cues from central leadership on donations and worthy causes. "When you have something like a disaster (in China) you see the basic generosity, but if you look at systemic things like giving to health causes, giving to universities to do research, giving to handicapped people, it's not there yet, " Gates told Reuters in Singapore. “Governments should consider introducing policies that would encourage potential donors, such as making charity donations tax deductible, he said. [Source: Rachel Armstrong and Andrew Toh, Reuters, Apr 6, 2014]

Debate Over the Stinginess of China’s Wealthy

The Bill Gates event and the response to it provoked a debate about the apparent stinginess of China’s billionaires. Critics argue that China's new rich have ignored their social responsibilities in the rush for wealth. Among the most scathing is one of last night's guests, Chen Guangbiao, who says Gates has inspired him to leave his fortune to charity when he dies. “This makes me so mad. How did we get so rich” We've had favorable economic policies and China's working class helped us get there. I think we need to repay society,” he told NPR " even threatening to leak the names of those who had turned down the invitation. [Sources: William Wan, Washington Post, September 19, 2010, The Guardian, Tania Branigan, September 29, 2010]

Guangbiao — whose wealth was estimated at $440 million in 2010, and who made his fortune recycling materials such as steel and concrete” promised to leave all his money to causes such as education and environmental protection. Chen grew up poor in Jiangsu Province in a family that was so poor two of siblings died of malnutrition. At the age of 10 he paid for his schooling by selling cups of water for a fraction of a cent. He told the Washington Post, “My parents left me nothing, I made this fortune entirely on my own, so I have no fear for my son’s future. He can find his way as well.

The richest man in China, beverage billionaire Zong Qinghou, expressed some skepticism about the requests saying he and others were a little put off by pressure for “donation pledges of rich men’s personal wealth.” He told Phoenix television he had a previous engagement and said real philanthropy was creating wealth and jobs. “If I want to donate, I will; if I don't want to, I won't be persuaded to either. I don't think donating a lot of money is real philanthropy. It is just a way to get around the high inheritance tax and other taxes,” he said.

Experts have suggested the rich fear exposing their wealth lest it attract envy, criminals and perhaps too much scrutiny of its origins. Even when they give, they prefer to do so privately. Wang Zhenyao, director of the Center for Philanthropy Research at Beijing Normal University, said high public expectations were another deterrent. “Many people think that no matter how much rich people donate, it is just not enough. That's wrong thinking: philanthropy is a voluntary act. In China there are now many rich people who fear to donate, because it will attract people's criticism,” he said. [Source: The Guardian, Tania Branigan, September 29, 2010]

Increasing Generosity Among China’s Rich

Charitable giving is higher than it used to be. According to the Hurun philanthropy list, the 50 most generous donors gave an average of $25 million in 2009 — eight times the average of the first list in 2004. Yu Pengnian topped the Hurun philanthropy list of China's biggest givers for five years - by giving away his whole fortune of $1.2bn (£760m). The 88-year-old began as a street hawker, and made his fortune in hotels before spending it on health (funding 150,000 cataract removals) and other good causes.

Experts say China is seeing a revival of a domestic idea, rather than the introduction of a foreign one. “There is a history and tradition of philanthropy in China pre-dating 1949, but if you look after that the sector is underdeveloped. The Communist party basically nationalised philanthropy,” said Shawn Shieh, visiting professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. It re-emerged when the government began establishing foundations and charities in the 1980s, with new regulations in 2004 paving the way for private foundations. “One obstacle is the mindset of the nouveau riche, the idea that they should think about giving their money to society. In the past, these entrepreneurs, if they donated money, donated it to government foundations as a way to improve their relations with officials or [for] public relations, showing they are working with government,” said Shieh. “The second obstacle has been systemic — reflected in the lack of regulations that would promote the sector in an effective way. You have regulations but private foundations have restrictions placed on them; they can't publicly fund-raise, for example. [Source:The Guardian, Tania Branigan, September 29, 2010]

The Chinese custom and Confucian value has traditionally been to leave your wealth to your descendants and look after your family first. Chinese critics have argued it is unnatural for Yu Pengnian not to leave his wealth to his family. His response: “If my children are competent, they don't need my money. If they're not, leaving them a lot of money is only doing them harm.” Many have also said Chen Guangbiao — the 42-year-old recycling entrepreneur who has pledged to give all his money to charity when he dies” should help his brother and sister, a security guard and dish-washer respectively; he says he has tried to aid them, unsuccessfully.

Reuters reported in 2014: “Despite the huge wealth creation seen in Asia over the past decade, philanthropy has not taken off. Charitable activities focus mostly on local causes. Donations by China's top 100 philanthropists in 2013 fell to $890 million, a 44 percent drop from 2012, according to the Hurun Report. The previous year donations fell by 55 percent. Among the possible reasons cited for the sharp decline in donations was a number of scandals involving charities in China that led to concern over possible misuse of funds. [Source: Rachel Armstrong and Andrew Toh, Reuters, Apr 6, 2014]

Image Sources: Wikicommons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated October 2021

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