Moreover, this white-collar behavior certainly smacks of keeping up with joneses. The desire to show off one's taste for elegance locks middle-class Chinese into a competitive struggle to sport the latest and best Italian clothes, designer handbags, and the like. And when it comes to function, most of the time one can get by just well with good generic brands versus expensive luxury goods.
Finally and most importantly, the scramble for luxury products doesn't seem to have made Chinese any happier. Indeed, in the most recent University of Michigan World Values Survey, China ranked 46th in the world with respect to the happiness of its citizens.
In my personal observation, the happiest people in Beijing are the laobaixing, or ordinary residents, I see in parks and other public spaces indulging in simple pleasures like singing and dancing together. I seriously doubt that few, if any, of these folks care much about owning lots of luxury brand products.
It is often said that money can't buy happiness; the same goes for owning a very expensive Luis Vuitton handbag.
The author is an American corporate trainer in China.
(China Daily 07/30/2010 page9)