The Comedy of China’s New Elite

Published on Author kavanaght16

As with all economies on a rapid upward trajectory, there is a emergence of a uber-wealthy elite in China. These newly wealthy Chinese have contributed greatly to China’s emergence as a key economic player on the international stage through their entrepreneurial enterprises. However, they recently have received press for less admirable finical behavior. The internet has exploded with a story of unfathomable wealth, and possibly irresponsible spending, of one of China’s elite.


Not so long ago, China was widely considered a third-world nation devoid of the luxuries those living in more developed nations enjoy. And while many in China still experience a pitiful standard of living, one individual in China showed the world how well some in the country are living. This man, who has only been identified as a 56 year old property developer, recently purchased at auction a Tibetan Mastiff for 12 million yuan, approximately $1,900,000. At 2 million yuan more than the previous record holder, this is the highest price paid for a dog in history. While difficult to rationalize the enormous sum paid for the dog, Tibetan Mastiffs have become a status symbol for Chinese elites as the dogs are said to bring health and security to their owners. This dog fetched the unprecedented price due to claims of lions blood in its heritage. While this purchase seems irrational to many, the story shows China’s super-elite are alive and well.

4 Responses to The Comedy of China’s New Elite

  1. Very interesting–one question I have: could the shift in preferences, both for consumer and luxury goods, away from “Western” brands (popular examples: Hermès, BMW, Rolex) and towards Chinese brands, be a function of this change in the nature of China’s wealth? As I wrote about in this previous post, foreign luxury brands are scrambling to adapt to the changing preferences within China by launching new Chinese-language and culturally influenced subsidiary brands.

  2. I don’t think that the change in China’s wealth is necessarily shifting their preferences away from Western brands. As I just touched on in my post, many Western companies are anticipating a substantial increase in sales due to this increase in Chinese wealth. Like you say, Asher, they are scrambling to hire Mandarin-speaking workers and accommodate their Chinese consumer base. I think that we will continue to see more and more countries adopt policies that cater to their Chinese customers

  3. To what extent is this new behavior – while the Cultural Revolution among other upheavals wiped out most of the old elite, we saw in “To Live” that ostentatious living is hardly new – nor “Chinese” as the term noveau riche signifies. Such new money is snapping up antiques and art of all sorts, leading to rampant counterfeiting of Bordeux wines – obvious since there’s more in storage in Hong Kong than the entire output of certain vintages. But this extends to Chinese tea, let’s call the spending indiscriminate.

  4. I agree with geeker; with the expectation of about 20 million Chinese citizens to be traveling before the end of the next decade, it seems that more and more Chinese consumer spending will be seen in non-Chinese goods. Maybe there is a shift away from Western brands in certain industries/markets in which China has reached a level of craftsmanship/expertise equivalent or superior to its Western counterparts.