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Living in the lap of luxury stirs debate
By Zou Huilin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-09 06:29

A luxury consumption exhibition is scheduled in Shanghai for June, once again making the buzzword of "luxury" a hot topic amongst people from all walks of life.

The show, organized by Shorex, a specialist media group for the wealth management industry, will group some of the products people associate most with the luxury sector including limousines, boats, private helicopters and jewellery.

According to Shorex, the company will sort through 150,000 of the country's richest people and eventually pick just 2,000 to attend the show, gratis of course.

The release of this information has dampened the enthusiasm of some however, especially chic young women whose income is far above the average.

Zou Cheng, a 28-year-old sales co-ordinator in a foreign logistics company whose monthly income is above 10,000 yuan (US$1,204), was disappointed she could not attend the show and rub shoulders with the rich.

"Though my buying power has not reached the highest level, I long to know the latest fashion trends of the highest class," said Zou.

Though yearning for the upper echelons, Zou said she would never let her spending exceed her savings.

Just like many other shrewd Shanghai women, after finding out of the latest designs, Zou hunts for cheaper imitations around the city, and sometimes goes further afield.

But one person's pastime is another's wasted time.

Li Jing, a senior engineer with a renowned IT company, said she hates such shows, as they do not give anything back to society.

"I would rather attend a flower exhibition than a luxury show, beautiful flowers leave me feeling much better than lots of gleaming jewels."

She believed such luxury shows fostered a vicious "Keep up with the Joneses" psychology, saying: "being surrounded by those selfish nouveau riches would make me sad."

She has attended a few shows promoting luxury cars, which she said, encourage the rich to buy wasteful, oil-guzzling sports cars.

Li said the rich only take up a very small proportion of the total population, and it is unjustifiable that they consume the majority of the resources just because "they are rich."

Experts believe appropriate luxury consumption will boost the economy but, they warned, excessive luxury consumption will only cultivate feelings of hatred towards the better-off.

Li Gang, a researcher from Shanghai Fudan University, said the economic rule of thumb is that in most societies, 10 per cent of the population's disposable income goes on luxury goods, whereas in China the figure has reached 13 per cent.

"But those newly rich and not-so rich, seem to have an excessive compulsion to consume which will lead to them living beyond their means or consuming more public resources than they should," said Li.

Li attributed this to the growing dislike of the masses towards the newly rich

Those on an average income are curious as to why the show is being held in Shanghai.

Li believed on average there were more people in Shanghai with the disposable income to afford luxury goods than other parts of the country.

Li added that Shanghai's fashion-conscious psychology is another factor that makes it the luxury consumption centre of China.

Sources from the Chinese office of the Financial Times revealed that they would be holding a luxury summit, the first of its kind in China, in Shanghai in mid-May.

They believed the show in June was planning to get a free ride on the back of their summit.

(China Daily 04/09/2005 page2)

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