As Western companies and economic growth brings prosperity to China, wealthy Chinese are busy establishing status symbols for the new elite. Although some of these symbols mirror Western aspirations—luxury cars, purebred pets, and expensive sports—China has put its own twist on status.
The luxury car market has increased by 30 percent in the last six months. Last year, Audi—the vehicle of choice among wealthy Chinese—sold over 200,000 vehicles, making it second only to Germany as Audi’s largest market.
“[Audis] are the must-have status symbol for Communist cadres and government officers,” wrote Jonathan Watts for the Sydney Morning Herald.
But while Audi may top the list, other luxury cars—including BMWs and Mercedes—are doing well in the market. And unlike the luxury car market in the West, car-buyers in China are less gendered: more women in China own luxury cars than women in the United States or Europe.
While expensive cars may let their owners show off on the road, China’s rich are looking for domestic luxuries, as well—specifically, expensive dogs. One Chinese tycoon, for example, recently acquired a Tibetan Mastiff for $1.5 million.
“The newly wealthy are hungry for luxuries, and dogs have supplanted sports cars and jewelry as the newest status symbol,” according to CBS’s Bailey Johnson.
While dogs may rule wealthy roosts, horses are taking the lead in wealthy sports. CNN reports that polo is becoming popular among China’s wealthy elite, and theWall Street Journal reported in May that China had put in large orders for polo boots with Argentine shoemakers. A new deluxe club is slated to be built in Tianjin for the polo set.
And who are the wealthy Chinese taking to watch their polo matches? Children. According to China Daily, a child—specifically, contrary to Western norms, a fat child—is the ultimate sign of prosperity.
“A fat child is almost like having a BMW, it’s a display of your wealth,” said Paul French, the author of Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation. “China has gone from famine to gluttony in two generations.”
Wealthy Chinese are also gluttons for more carnal pleasures. According to Dan Levin, “In 2007, China’s top prosecutor’s office said that 90 percent of the country’s most senior officials felled by corruption scandals in previous years had kept mistresses.”
Historically, China had a tradition of keeping concubines and mistresses, and wealth Chinese businessmen are keeping in touch with this ancient tradition.
Who knows what will come next that conveys status. One thing is certain: the Chinese will define status on their own terms as China’s elite develop into the next decade.
image source: porsche china