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China’s “Comfort Class” | The Bling Dynasty, National Geographic Magazine

Never in the course of human history has a larger number of people gained more wealth in such a short time.” — The Tank Man, A Frontline Documentary

The market potential in China is unsurpassed, and China has one of the most impressive cultural traditions in the world. Together this means potentially one of the most significant cultural changes in the history of the world.” A Consumer Ethnography by Context-Based Research Group

The Bling Dynasty

Their parents toiled on collective farms, but young, urban Chinese drink Starbucks, watch flat screen TVs, hire maids, and blog obsessively. They are self-interested and apolitical. “On their wish list,” says Hong Huang, a publisher of lifestyle magazines, “a Nintendo Wii comes way ahead of democracy.”

The Communist …

China’s “Comfort Class” | The Bling Dynasty, National Geographic Magazine

Never in the course of human history has a larger number of people gained more wealth in such a short time.” — The Tank Man, A Frontline Documentary

The market potential in China is unsurpassed, and China has one of the most impressive cultural traditions in the world. Together this means potentially one of the most significant cultural changes in the history of the world.” A Consumer Ethnography by Context-Based Research Group

The Bling Dynasty

Their parents toiled on collective farms, but young, urban Chinese drink Starbucks, watch flat screen TVs, hire maids, and blog obsessively. They are self-interested and apolitical. “On their wish list,” says Hong Huang, a publisher of lifestyle magazines, “a Nintendo Wii comes way ahead of democracy.”

The Communist Party’s catastrophic twentieth-century social experiments were abandoned when Deng Xiaoping wrested control from rivals after Mao’s death in 1976. “To get rich is glorious,” he said. His changes to economic policies set the stage for today’s incongruous system of socialized capitalism, where the unapologetically authoritarian regime maintains repressive control over the rural poor while providing the means for explosive growth in the personal wealth of the burgeoning middle class.

Now China has the fastest growing economy in the world, fueled in part by the young, urban “Little Capitalist” of the “Comfort Class,” many of whom are “Little Emperors,” members of the world’s first only-child generation resulting from the One Child Policy instituted in 1979. According to a recent survey, incomes of 20- to 29-year-olds have grown 34% in just the past three years. In Beijing, newly prosperous residents are snapping up automobiles at a rate of 1,000 a day. China’s Comfort Class reached the size the U.S. Middle Class by 2010 and will double by 2015. By then, the number of Chinese adults under 30 is expected to swell 61%, to 500 million, equivalent to the current population of the entire European Union.

Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and even Tiananmen Square, are ancient history to China’s young elites. They have known little but peace and an ever-increasing economic boom. For China’s leaders, placating this Me Generation is seen as critical to ensuring the Communist Party’s survival. Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that economic growth should take precedence over democratic reforms for the foreseeable future; a period that he appeared to indicate could stretch to 100 years.

As discordant as this may seem to outsiders, even more surprising is the resulting tendency that among this class the idea is that money is more important than love. One’s prospects (financial status and earning ability) take precedence. The reasons behind this are complex but may be in part due to abnormally accelerated rates of social and economic change. The changes the Chinese have experienced during just the last 10 years took 50 years to occur in the U.S. What will the next 10 years bring? These photographs are of China’s coming of age and the changes, set on fast forward, to infrastructure, housing, factories, service industries, and lifestyle, and the stress and affluence it brings to China’s Comfort Class.

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The dancers, wait staff, and performers are all migrant workers from Xinjiang Province in Northwest China. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China has been experiencing the largest mass migration in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories.
 
The dancers, wait staff, and performers are all migrant workers from Xinjiang Province in Northwest China. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China has been experiencing the largest mass migration in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories.
There are 2.6 billion armpits in China, according to some ad man, and someone has to sell them deodorant. This shop-owner (right) thinks a guy wandering Nanjing Road in a full knight suit will do the trick for his snack shop.
 
The Fortune Land International Hotel has embraced the boutique hotel concept of the U.S., but on steroids. Giant mushrooms hang from the lobby ceiling above strange-looking and not always comfortable chair-pods.
 
At eyou.com they have a climbing wall and the CEO’s computer (that was used to found the company) is embedded partially into the wall of the conference room. Many complicated equations are worked out with markers on the glass walls of the manager’s offices. These employees work in a faux-silicon-valley atmosphere. Eyou wants to bring Facebook to China, which brings up some serious issues. Facebook is based on knowing and trusting your community of friends. But many Chinese only feel comfortable using pseudonyms and eyou forces them to be who they are when they talk about issues with their parents, girlfriends or boyfriends.
There is a new phenomenon breaking through the “factory of the world” culture of China. New businesses cater to the newly wealthy Chinese, so instead of ‘B to B,’ these businesses are ‘C to C’ (Copy to China). The idea is to find something that is working spectacularly well in the U.S. or Europe and then import it for newly wealthy Chinese consumers. SOHU.com wants to be the Google of China and was one of the main sponsors of the Beijing Summer Olympics. Personalization of cubicles goes a little over the top, and I noticed that the workspaces that had American fast food wrappers and liter bottles of Coke also had some of the first overweight Chinese I had seen working in them.
There is a reason Guangzhou was the first city in China to reach first world status (2008). Everyone in Guangzhou, aside from the migrant population, is making an average of $830 a month. Money has approximately four times more buying power in China than the U.S., so that $830 equals $3320 a month in our economy. That is the same buying power of average citizens in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
Scenes from the Bund – Including giant illuminated screen that shows commercials as it motors up and down the river. This screen is so bright that it throws a massive amount of light pollution into all of the condo buildings and fancy hotels along the Bund. There were so many complaints from wealthy building owners that the LED screen had to be parked in one spot rather than going up and down the river.
Yvonne’s boutique spas in Shanghai offer 13 types of facials, plus a chocolate pedicure for $48. Her father escaped China in 1949 with his family and two of his siblings died in the crossing (there were ten children, his father had multiple wives). Yvonne’s family is typical of the Chinese who were smart enough to get out when it was bad and smart enough to get back in ten years ago when things were improving. Diva Life is set up for two types of clients; the ex-pat tai tai wives of diplomats and the wannabe Chinese who follow that crowd into Yvonne’s spa. Yvonne has the Diva life. She designs her own furniture, spa, and clothes. She spends the morning at the fabric market and meeting with her tailor, and then goes to her office. But the main reason she started the spa is so that she can have a couple hours of spa treatment any day she likes.
This is an over the top spa, massage parlor, and hotel in the Suzhou Creek area of Shanghai. Guys walk from the men’s locker room through an aquarium tunnel filled with endangered species to the bath area. From there they can turn left and play ping pong or watch a movie with their family in their bathrobes, or they can turn right and meet their mistresses in a discreet room. 
Chinese demand nice places. By 2015, the number of Chinese under 30 is expected to swell to 500 million, equivalent to the population of the European Union.
This is the Armani Club in the Liu lin Road area. This scene is a mix of young folks, mistresses, and male and female prostitutes. Bars are a little crazier in the south of China where there is new wealth.  Young people demand nice places to eat and drink. By 2015, the number of Chinese adults under 30 is expected to swell 61%, to 500 million, equivalent to the entire population of the European Union.
This scene is a mix of young folks, mistresses, and male and female prostitutes. Bars are a little crazier in the south of China where there is new wealth.  Young people demand nice places to eat and drink. By 2015, the number of Chinese adults under 30 is expected to swell 61%, to 500 million, equivalent to the entire population of the European Union.
Singles try to find each other at an event at amusement park sponsored by a web site (www.juedui100.com) that caters to Chinese singles. The web pages of prospective Chinese partners hang all over the walls and trees and there are so many that they have to be changed every few hours. Julie, the president of the company, says that she counsels folks about going for love over stability but no one listens. She says they all want to find someone with a good job, a house, and a car before worrying about loving them or not. Even with this counseling, there is a surreal scene where young singles get up on an AstroTurf stage and recite their particulars: My name is John, I am 28 years old and I have a condo with two bedrooms. I make X amount of money a year, and I have a 2006 Volkswagen golf with a garage.
One surreal scene from this event was a woman who wandered in talking on TWO cell phones, going back and forth to the people who were patiently dealing with her divided attention. She looked at a couple of placards and then kept moving. She was just way too busy for finding love. “Society is changing very fast,” observed Gong Hai Yan, founder and chief executive of love21cn.com, one of China’s early dating Web sites. “Young people are moving to the big cities, but they don’t have friends and family living there.” The Internet dating and “friend-making” industry in China is forecast to be a $80 million industry by next year, according to Shanghai-based iResearch. And when it comes to love, the Chinese are ardent consumers.
“The Chinese younger generation are more independent,” said Aiguo Fan, general secretary of the China Marriage and Family Institute. “They don’t rely on their parents as they did before.”
Eager May Yao admits she’s “very picky. I want to find a boy who has as good a career as me. But I can’t find too many boys like that,” she said.
Yao also wants someone with whom she can communicate. She thinks she may have found her match through Baihe.com, which suggests possible dates based on personality tests and, for those willing to pay fees ranging from $480 to nearly $900 a year, offers love counselors to help with the search. Baihe, which means flower lily, the symbol for 100 years of a good marriage, has about 8 million registered users. The Web site markets itself particularly to women, who are more apt to pay for the additional matchmaking help.
In rural China, for every 100 females, there are 117 males, a skewed ratio caused in part by China’s one-child policy and the desire of couples to have a boy over a girl. But those female advantages don’t play out in the large cities. One reason is that even as women become more educated and professionally successful, tradition still dictates they marry up. Ideal husbands need to have more prestigious résumés and heftier bank accounts, making their selection even more selective.
And while it is becoming more acceptable for women in cities like Beijing and Shanghai to wait longer to marry—from an average marrying age of 23 during the 1980s to 27 now —they still stampede to get hitched before 30.
Singles try to find each other at an event at amusement park sponsored by a web site (www.juedui100.com) that caters to Chinese singles. The web pages of prospective Chinese partners hang all over the walls and trees and there are so many that they have to be changed every few hours. Julie, the president of the company, says that she counsels folks about going for love over stability but no one listens. She says they all want to find someone with a good job, a house, and a car before worrying about loving them or not. Even with this counseling, there is a surreal scene where young singles get up on an AstroTurf stage and recite their particulars: My name is John, I am 28 years old and I have a condo with two bedrooms. I make X amount of money a year, and I have a 2006 Volkswagen golf with a garage. This is backed up by a China Daily report: If you’re a single male living in Beijing, you need to make a mental note of this figure: 1,068,000. No, it’s not the lottery payoff you dream you’ll win next week. It’s the number of yuan you’ll need to shell out to get married. It’s going to take you exactly 12 years to save the sum on the condition that you don’t spend a penny on food, lodging or anything else.
A housing unit, reasonably located between the Third Ring and the Fourth
Ring roads: Average price: 8,000 yuan per square metre, or 640,000 yuan
for 80 square metres.
Interior decoration: 150,000 yuan.
Furniture and home appliances: 80,000 yuan.
A car of medium price range: 120,000 yuan for a Hyundai Elantra. (No
decent girl would consider public transport.)
Honeymoon: 30,000 yuan for a trip to Maldives Island.
Expenses for two years of dating that leads up to marriage: 48,000 yuan,
which covers dining out, gifts, travel, and so on.
Altogether, it adds up to 1,068,000 yuan.
I’m photographing this lineup of web pages displaying prospective singles and I overhear parents who are looking for a match for their daughter say, “This one is too tall,” and “He wasn’t born in Beijing. She should have someone who was born in Beijing.” As they travel from placard to placard of Chinese singles advertising themselves, looking for an appropriate partner.
This scene is backed up with an excerpt from a China Daily article: Though divorce rates in the big cities are now about 50 percent, marriage still confers a certain social standing. “If a woman is 30 and not married, people will think there is something wrong with her,” said Maggie Xie, Baihe.com‘s financial controller. “In business, a married man is viewed as more reliable.” Baihe.com, like other dating sites, organizes revenue-generating singles events, which include games and other activities. They reflect cultural preferences among Chinese for group gatherings as social icebreakers. Overseas Chinese men, and even foreign-born guys, are big hits; so numerous dating sites are looking at developing ways to link their female customers to males living abroad. When foreigners show up to these events, something akin to a feeding frenzy ensues. The search for blue-chip mates played out on one recent Saturday afternoon, with about 200 showing up to a Baihe.com love connection at a Beijing hotel. As with most of these events, women outnumbered men about 7-to-3. They sat in circles and participated in various games and sing-alongs before rotating seats. Love counselors were on hand, just in case. What these events often lack are “A-level” men, guys who fit the hard-and-fast criteria successful women demand, Xie said, looking on. These prime male candidates, she speculated, are more concerned about their career and are probably working. The tough scrutiny they’d face may also keep them away. Tommy Tang, a 34-year-old employee at a security company, described the Beijing dating scene as something akin to emotional bumper cars. “Most of the females leave me after the first date because I don’t have a house or a car —and I’m short,” he said. The experience, though, can be equally blunt and bruising for the women. After several hours of socializing, the event came to a close with the Lineup. Women stood against the walls of the large hotel meeting room. Then the men circled, handing out cards to the ones they’d like to get to know. Zhao Yuping, 28, left carrying a fistful of Mr. Maybes. Still, she wasn’t too pleased with the day’s catch.
So a frowning Zhao decided on Plan B—sending her mother out to Zhongshan Park in central Beijing, where parents parade with pictures of their children, hoping to strike a deal with another parent.
“I plan to ask my mother to go there and help me find someone,” Zhao said. “Preferably,” she quickly added, “a man who owns a house.”
The Armani Club is in the Liu lin Road area attract a scene of young people.
Deng Xiaoping’s strategy after Tiananmen was to buy off the people by means of economic growth. Part of that growth is to bulldoze the old buildings and make gleaming new high-rise condos for the newly affluent to live in. Chinese prefer to buy into a brand new condo. Newspapers advertise homes for sale by owners as “used.” Buildings look good when they go up, but Chinese know they will only look good for 20 years or so.
City Planning Museum is just off People’s Square in the Puxi side of Shanghai. Models show not only the buildings that are already done, but also those planned for the future.
These buildings will disappear because the property is just too valuable to leave them. For the moment, however, the government has cooled the housing market by imposing a 20 percent resale tax. If you want to see what this block will look like in the future you can just go to the City Planning Museum off People’s Square in the Puxi side of Shanghai. A 3D model shows not only the buildings that are already done, but also those planned for the future.
This is the China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition, and one of the biggest auto shows on the planet. When people have MORE STUFF it also creates more demand for resources. China already consumes more of seven of the eight most basic resources on the planet (the eighth being oil). They need THEIR plastic objects, their cars, their air conditioning. There is a (dirty) coal power plant coming online every four to five days in China that could power a city the size of San Diego.
Forty five percent of urban Chinese are at health risk due to stress. They call it “inner heat” and most Chuppies can cite the physical symptoms. The Chinese have accomplished in 10 years what the U.S. did in 50. These photographs are of China’s coming of age. Our history, fast forward times five, applied to China’s infrastructure, housing, factories, service industries, and STRESS, is what the newly wealthy “comfort class” in China is dealing with. Companies like Avon or Wrigley define this comfort class as those earning between $400 and $4,000 a month and those are the folks they want to sell stuff to. Money seems to go three times as far in China. Most of these photographs are of people making between $5,000 and $20,000 a year. As De Tocqueville observed, “steadily increasing prosperity does not tranquilize citizens; on the contrary, it promotes a spirit of unrest.”
This easy migration of people from city to city is still hard for me to get used to. Seventeen years ago when I was traveling between Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, they all had a ring of policemen around them checking identity papers. I was in China trying to get through those rings of security during the Tiananmen Square uprising. I remember traveling with wire service photographers and driving through those checkpoints at 90 mph and seeing the policeman jump up and down on the dais—literally hopping mad—but there was nothing they could do because they did not have guns or radios. After being absent 17 years, I made (technically) five trips to China in about a one-year period. The growth is so fast paced I could feel the energy and the stress on the street. It makes you realize that our empire is over, but you can’t really understand that without being there. Even though the NYT has multiple stories, every day, on the growth and complexity of the Chinese economy, the average American has little idea what this means other than a fear that increased Chinese fuel consumption will somehow affect what they put in the tank of their SUV. Robert Frank photographed twentieth-century America, recording our coming of age—the baby boom, the start of television, car culture, modular housing, and relative wealth distributed throughout the middle class. His photographs are of progress, technology, plenty, but also the weary faces of waitresses and elevator operators who were desperately trying to join the economic party. Those 1950s faces remind me of a line in Leslie Chang’s story about modern China: “What looks like freedom just feels like pressure.”
Restaurant East Nanjing Road | Shanghai, China
All over China, young architects design buildings that are just experiments: throw in a bit of classical modern, a little Prairie style, a few Roman columns . . . wow . . . Cooooool! This restaurant with the longest name I saw in China, decided one day they would just photograph the interior of the restaurant with all the customers and then have it printed on huge canvas sheets so it feels like you are sitting inside the restaurant – inside the restaurant.
This is from Leslie Chang’s story that accompanied these photographs in National Geographic Magazine:
By the time she was ten, Bella lived a life that was rich with possibility and as regimented as a drill sergeant’s. After school she did homework unsupervised until her parents got home. Then came dinner, bath, piano practice. Sometimes she was permitted television, but only the news. On Saturdays she took a private essay class followed by Math Olympics, and on Sundays a prep class for the middle-school entrance exam and piano lessons. The best moment of the week was Friday afternoon, when school let out early. Bella might take a deep breath and look around, like a man who discovers a glimpse of blue sky from the confines of the prison yard.
The past decade has seen the rise of some-thing Mao sought to stamp out forever: a Chinese middle class, now estimated to number between 100 million and 150 million people. Though definitions vary—household income of at least $10,000 a year is one standard—middle- class families tend to own an apartment and a car, to eat out and take vacations, and to be familiar with foreign brands and ideas. They owe their well-being to the government’s economic policies, but in private they can be very critical of the society they live in.
The state’s retreat from private life has left people free to choose where to live, work, and travel, and material opportunities expand year by year. A decade ago most cars belonged to state enterprises; now many families own one. In 1998, when the government launched reforms to commercialize the housing market, it was the rare person who owned an apartment. Today home ownership is common, and prices have risen beyond what many young couples can afford—as if everything that happened in America over 50 years were collapsed into a single decade.
But pick up a Chinese newspaper, and what comes through is a sense of unease at the pace of social change. Over several months in 2006, these were some of the trends covered in the Xinmin Evening News, a popular Shanghai daily: High school girls were suffering from eating disorders. Parents were struggling to choose a suitable English name for their child. Teenage boys were reading novels with homosexual themes. Jobseekers were besieging Buddhist temples because the word for “reclining Buddha,” wofo, sounds like the English word “offer.” Unwed college students were living together.
Parents struggle to teach their children but feel their own knowledge is obsolete; children, more attuned to social trends, guide their par- ents through the maze of modern life. “Society has completely turned around,” says Zhou Xiaohong, a sociologist at Nanjing University who first noticed this phenomenon when his own father, a retired military officer, asked him how to knot a Western tie. “Fathers used to give orders, but now fathers listen to their sons.”
Because their parents have such high hopes for them, children are among the most pressured, inhabiting a world that combines old and new and features the most punishing elements of both. The traditional examination system that selects a favored few for higher education remains intact: The number of students entering college in a given year is equal to 11 percent of the college freshman-age population, compared to 64 percent in the United States. Yet the de- sire to foster well-rounded students has fed an explosion of activities—music lessons, English, drawing and martial arts classes—and turned each into an arena of competition.
Such pursuits bring little pleasure. English ability is graded on five levels stretching through college, and parents push children to pass tests years ahead of schedule. Cities assess children’s piano playing on a ten-level scale. More than half of preteens take outside classes, a survey found, with the top reason being “to raise the child’s future competitiveness.”
Parents tend to follow trends blindly and to believe most of what they hear. The past is a foreign country, and the present too.
From Leslie Chang’s story that accompanied these photographs in National Geographic Magazine:
By the time she was ten, Bella lived a life that was rich with possibility and as regimented as a drill sergeant’s. After school she did homework unsupervised until her parents got home. Then came dinner, bath, piano practice. Sometimes she was permitted television, but only the news. On Saturdays she took a private essay class followed by Math Olympics, and on Sundays a prep class for the middle-school entrance exam and piano lessons. The best moment of the week was Friday afternoon, when school let out early. Bella might take a deep breath and look around, like a man who discovers a glimpse of blue sky from the confines of the prison yard.
For China’s emerging middle class, this is an age of aspiration—but also a time of anxiety. Opportunities have multiplied, but each one brings pressure to take part and not lose out, and every acquisition seems to come ready wrapped in disappointment that it isn’t something newer and better. An apartment that was renovated a few years ago looks dated; a mobile phone without a video camera and color screen is an embarrassment. Classes in colloquial English are fashionable among Shanghai school children, but everything costs money.
Freedom is not always liberating for people who grew up in a stable socialist society; sometimes it feels more like a never ending struggle not to fall behind. A study has shown that 45 percent of Chinese urban residents are at health risk due to stress, with the highest rates among high school students.
Fifth grade was Bella’s toughest year yet. At its end, she would take entrance exams for middle school. Every student knew where he or she ranked: When teachers handed back tests, they had the students stand in groups according to their scores. Bella ranked in the middle—12th or 13th in a class of 25, lower if she lost focus.
She hated Japan, as her textbooks had taught her to: The Japanese army had killed 300,000 Chinese in the 1937 Nanjing massacre. She hated America too, because it always meddled in the affairs of other countries. She spoke a fair amount of English: Men like to smoke and drink beer, wine, and whiskey. Her favorite restaurant was Pizza Hut, and she liked the spicy wings at KFC. Her record on the hula hoop was 2,000 spins.
The best place in the world was the Baodaxiang Children’s Department Store on Nanjing Road. In its vast stationery department, Bella would carefully select additions to her eraser collection. She owned 30 erasers—stored in a cookie tin at home—that were shaped like flip-flops and hamburgers and cartoon characters. Each was not much bigger than a thumbnail and all remained in their original plastic packaging. When her grandparents took her to the same store, Bella headed for the toy section, but not when she was with her parents. They said she was too old for toys.
If Bella scored well on a test, her parents bought her presents; a bad grade brought a clampdown at home. Her best subject was Chinese, where she had mastered the art of the composition: to describe a household object in a morally uplifting way.
The IKEA store in Shanghai, China is packed daily, but Sundays are particularly crowded. Sometimes one can’t maneuver through the aisles.
China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition that began in 2003 is one of the largest international auto shows in China. This event has an exhibition ground measuring 85,000 square meters and it filled eight exhibition halls. Over 370 exhibitors from 20 other countries and regions, took part in this exhibition, which was covered by more than 1,600 news reporters representing upwards of 510 TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and online media at home and abroad. 120,000 people attended.
Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who move to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Men often get construction jobs while women work in cheap-labor factories.
Women from rural countryside learn to be maids for the newly wealthy class. They learn to cook and iron at the Fuping Vocational Skills Training School.Since opening up its economy in 1978 and moving toward a market economy, China has lifted about 400 million people out of poverty, according to the World Bank. But this has led to wide income inequalities that the Communist Party is trying to address through its notion of a “harmonious society” that has a more even distribution of the benefits of recent decades of speedy economic growth. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Men often get construction jobs while women work in cheap-labor factories.
Girls from rural countryside learn to be maids for the newly wealthy class. They learn to cook and iron at the Fuping Vocational Skills Training School. Li Lingping responds to flying grease in one of the cooking classes.
Since opening up its economy in 1978 and moving toward a market economy, China has lifted about 400 million people out of poverty, according to the World Bank. But this has led to wide income inequalities that the Communist Party is trying to address through its notion of a “harmonious society” that has a more even distribution of the benefits of recent decades of speedy economic growth. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Men often get construction jobs while women work in cheap-labor factories. So many migrants leave their homes looking for work they overburden the rail system. In the Hunan province, 52 people were trampled to death in the late 1990s when 10,000 migrants were herded onto a freight train. To stem the flow of migrants, officials in Hunan and Sichuan have placed restrictions on the use of trains and buses by rural people. In some cities, the migrants almost outnumber the residents. One young girl told National Geographic, “All the young people leave our village. I’m not going back. Many can’t even afford a bus ticket and hitchhike to Beijing.” Overall, the Chinese government has tacitly supported migration as means of transforming China from a rural-based economy to an urban-based one.
Girls from rural countryside learn skills at the Fuping Vocational Skills Training School to be maids for the newly wealthy comfort class. Since opening up its economy in 1978 and moving toward a market economy, China has lifted about 400 million people out of poverty, but this has led to wide income inequalities. The Communist Party is trying to address this through its notion of a “harmonious society” that has a more even distribution of the benefits of recent decades of speedy economic growth. Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions who go to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese (2010), roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Overall, the Chinese government has tacitly supported migration as means of transforming China from a rural-based economy to an urban-based one.
Migrant workers in China are mostly people from impoverished regions of the country moving to more urban and prosperous coastal regions in search of work. According to Chinese government statistics, the current number of migrant workers in China is estimated at 120 million (approximately 9% of the population). China is experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 230 million Chinese in 2010, roughly equivalent to two-thirds the population of the U.S., have left the countryside and migrated to the cities in recent years. About 13 million more join them every year—an expected 250 million by 2012, and 300 to perhaps 400 million by 2025. Many are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. Men often get construction jobs while women work in cheap-labor factories. So many migrants leave their homes looking for work they overburden the rail system. In the Hunan province, 52 people were trampled to death in the late 1990s when 10,000 migrants were herded onto a freight train. To stem the flow of migrants, officials in Hunan and Sichuan have placed restrictions on the use of trains and buses by rural people. In some cities, the migrants almost outnumber the residents. One young girl told National Geographic, “All the young people leave our village. I’m not going back. Many can’t even afford a bus ticket and hitchhike to Beijing.” Overall, the Chinese government has tacitly supported migration as means of transforming China from a rural-based economy to an urban-based one. From the New York Times: “As a result, China’s rulers face a dilemma: the very policies that cater to the urban middle class come at the expense of the rural poor. So far the government is erring on the side of the rich. In March the government pledged to address problems plaguing the country’s peasants, such as access to medical treatment and schooling, health insurance and the disparity between urban and rural incomes. And yet a relatively small portion of the budget was set aside to address the concerns of the peasantry, with the bulk of spending still concentrated on stoking the booming economy. Even more telling was the passage of what was widely viewed as one of the most important pieces of legislation to be put forward in several decades of reform: the revised law on property ownership. Pushed through despite objections from old-line conservatives, the law for the first time gave equal weight to both state- and private- ownership rights. But a look at the fine print shows that the law only protects things dear to the rising middle class: real estate, cars, stock-market assets. Farmers, on the other hand, will still be unable to purchase their land and instead will be forced to lease plots from the government. If left unchanged, such policies could exacerbate China’s rich-poor divide and create conditions for tumultuous social upheaval. The test for China—as the Me generation grows bigger, richer and more powerful—will be whether it begins to push for the social and political reforms that are necessary to ensure China’s long-term prosperity and stability. How likely is that? Though they’re not exactly clamoring for free elections, members of the new middle class have shown a willingness to stand up to authority when their interests are threatened. Last October police in Beijing attempted to enforce rules limiting each household to a single, registered animal no taller than 14 in. (35 cm). The drive sparked a rare public demonstration by hundreds of well-heeled Chinese, mostly young dog owners. Within a month, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, President Hu Jintao had intervened, ordering the Beijing authorities to back off. It was the first time most Beijingers could remember a public protest drawing a direct intervention by China’s top leader. It was hardly Tiananmen, but a small triumph for free expression nonetheless.”
The need for electrical power is so great in Shanghai that migrant workers are hired to hook them up by strapping a high voltage wire around their waist and pull it across an already stressed net by walking on the actual wires that bring the electricity.  There is a (dirty) coal power plant coming online every four to five days in China that could power a city the size of San Diego. Energy is wasted on an epic scale. One hundred cities with populations over 1 million faced extreme water shortages last year. China’s survival has always been built on the notion of a vastly powerful, infallible center. Thus, China has poor foundations on which to build the subtle network of institutions and accountability necessary to manage the complexities of a modern economy and society. The lack of independent scrutiny and accountability lies behind the massive waste in the Chinese government and destruction of the environment. Air pollution contributed by these plants kills 400,000 people prematurely every year.
A new coal power plant comes online every four to five days in China that could power a city the size of San Diego, yet, energy is wasted on an epic scale. One hundred cities with populations over 1 million faced extreme water shortages. China’s survival has always been built on the notion of a vastly powerful, infallible center. Thus, China has poor foundations on which to build the subtle network of institutions and accountability necessary to manage the complexities of a modern economy and society. The lack of independent scrutiny and accountability lies behind the massive waste in the Chinese government and destruction of the environment.  These new plants contribute to the air pollution that kills 400,000 people prematurely every year.
Xidan shopping area in downtown Beijing just off the side of Tiananmen Square and Forbidden city has been a commercial street crowded with shops since the Ming dynasty.
 
New products bombard Chinese consumers daily. Just keeping up with the new air freshener and portable camera . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . can be overwhelming.
Golf Driving Range, off the Fourth Ring Road lined with skyscrapers.| Beijing, China
The dog on the treadmill is a Siberian Husky and Beijing police are starting another crackdown on large dog ownership. These folks are starting to train their pet on their friend’s treadmill because if they take it outside for a walk, they risk having it beaten to death in front of them by a Beijing policeman. Owners of big dogs (over 35cm) that live within the sixth ring in Beijing have an illegal pet. Many have purchased treadmills after the crackdown began when pets were pulled out of the hands of their crying owners. A group protested in front of the zoo because there was suspicion that some of the dogs were being fed to the tigers. The activists claim dog owners tried to take policemen to dinner to bribe them, but it did not work. They say the policemen sold some of the nice animals and sent the rest to the zoo.
Health clubs are surging in popularity, partly as an antidote to work stress. The Total Fitness Club, with 11 branches in Guangzhou, offers six kinds of yoga, and classes in salsa and pole dancing.
This is outside of Total Fitness Club in the mall in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. There are 900 million cell phones in China and the West has long predicted that economic growth would eventually bring democracy. As James Mann points out in his new book, The China Fantasy, the idea that China will evolve into a democracy as its middle class grows continues to underlie the U.S.’s China policy, providing the central rationale for maintaining close ties with what is, after all, an unapologetically authoritarian regime. But China’s comfort class could shatter such long-held assumptions. As the chief beneficiaries of China’s economic success, young professionals are more and more tied up in preserving the status quo. The last thing they want is a populist politician winning over the country’s hundreds of millions of have-nots on a rural-reform, stick-it-to-the-cities agenda. All of which means democracy isn’t likely to come to China anytime soon.
These are spokes models at a Johnny Walker event at Granvill Mall. This event had something to do with sponsoring a formula one racing car and hard alcohol—not a good mix by most standards, but, whatever. A camera club showed up to photograph the models and use to all their brand new, expensive gear. Survey young, urban Chinese today, and you will find them drinking Starbucks, wearing Nikes and blogging obsessively. But you will detect little interest in demanding voting rights, let alone overthrowing the country’s communist rulers. “On their wish list,” says Hong Huang, a publisher of several lifestyle magazines, “a Nintendo Wii comes way ahead of democracy.”
In a complicated family life, the grandparents were farmers and lost the land and their occupations to development. If the couple did not have a child they would be homeless. Ironically, the same development that took his home now supports their daughter, Ding, who works in the industrial park occupying the land that was once the father’s farm.
Lu Guo Bao lives with his son and daughter-in-law who is shopping for new baby clothes.
Lu Guo Bao lives with his daughter-in-law and son who is trying to do a start up GPS business and often works from home. Lu was sent to prison during the Cultural Revolution and tries to keep pace with today’s values, but still has questions about his son’s world. The “little capitalists” that live with their Cultural Revolution parents often have conflicts of ideology. The older generation thinks in a more Confucian way—never rise above your teacher, never rise above your father, others’ needs are more important than your own.
This mass wedding took place at the Great Wall outside Beijing. After reading many surveys about how money was more important than love, I watched and photographed this woman all day. She never smiled.  Marriage can be a great social and financial leap forward for some people.
Brides numbered 32 through 43 line up in their queue at the Rose Wedding Festival. Seventy couples in this mass marriage ceremony started at a shopping mall, then traveled to Century Park for the ceremony. The marriage-age consumer is a prime target for first-world companies. The middle class’s under-30-consumer market alone will be the size of the entire EU market in the next decade.
Mass weddings used to involve gold jewelry, but DeBeers initiated an advertising push to make diamonds synonymous with weddings. Couples sign their best wishes on a giant mirrored diamond outside the shopping mall before going to the park where 70 couples will be married.
 
Weary Chinese middle class groom to be on wedding shopping street in Guangzhou, China
When young Chinese are surveyed, they say that money is more important than love. Money is the primary concentration of the “Little Capitalist” class. Prosperity is emerging in modern China so that relationships take a back seat to getting ahead financially.
Leaving  a Johnny Walker/Formula one car event at Granvill Mall, I came upon a woman with a broken shoe and her friend who was trying to fix it by using his cell phone as a hammer. Cell phones are changed up so frequently, so why not use it as a hammer? Their friends were laughing at the scene so she was embarrassed.
Guang Hui Plaza | Shanghai, China  in the west part of Shanghai–Xugiahui area. Public displays of affection are rare, but these two young people are comfortable sitting close to each other and watching the world go by.
Susanne is marrying her boyfriend in Hong Kong. They take a cab to the knock-off mall to get clothes made for the ceremony. Statistics show that there are many more western men marrying Chinese women, but you don’t see that published in the media. The government promoted a soap opera about the opposite situation, however, called “Foreign Babes in Beijing,”  featuring western women falling for Chinese men.
Southern Metropolitan News surveys since 1989 cite Guangzhou residents as saying that “love” comes after “money” on the value ladder. In 2008 “love” slipped even lower for most people, according to a survey by the Guangzhou Social Trend and Public Opinion Study Center. The center has conducted a survey each year since 1990. Another finding of the survey is that money has universally meant more than love in the eyes of women in Guangzhou for all years the survey has been given. To understand the prevailing preference for money over love in today’s China requires a little tinkering with Hungarian Sandor Petofi’s famous poem. The original: Liberty and love, these two I must have / For my love I will sacrifice / My life /For liberty / will sacrifice / My love. There are people in China who still hold onto Petofi’s noble idea, but for many, the poem’s last two lines are reversed: For money I will sacrifice my love.
October Holiday week along the Bund on the Puxi side of Shangha  where this couple is one of the lucky ones. “Bare Branches”—a phenomenon where a boy just cannot find a girl is becoming more and more of a social problem. According to the 2010 census, there were 118.06 boys born for every 100 girls. For the population born between 1900 and 2000, it is estimated that there could be 35.59 million fewer females than males. Maybe everyone eventually can have a car, but can every boy find a girl?
Rachel broke up with her ex-pat boyfriend and is well-versed in the social scene of Shanghai. She prefers ex-pats but doesn’t like the dynamic that many of them know women like her prefer them and use this to their advantage. Even though the statistics show that there are many more western men marrying Chinese women, those statistics are not discussed in the Chinese media. For example, the government would never allow a soap opera about all the western men connecting with Chinese women, so they promoted a soap opera about the opposite situation called “Foreign Babes in Beijing” featuring western women falling for Chinese men.
Rachel (from the previous photograph) shops for a new outfit to go on an upcoming date. The fashion store called Thre3 is run by her friend on the Bund in Shanghai. Her dressing room takes two assistants to close—another example of some of the over-the-top culture. The green frock has a $2,200 price tag.
Rachel is a “headhunter” for the Comfort Class, which is the buffer class between first world needs and third world sweatshops or between first world companies and third world consumers. Rachel is single and lives at home with her parents, who were part of one of the worst social experiments in history. Mao unified the country, but then was responsible for the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, countless famines. Then, Deng proclaimed, “To get rich is glorious” and opened the flood gates to the “Special Economic Zone” cities on the south coast, creating the largest peacetime human migration in history. Many 20-somethings say that Tiananmen Square had to be put down or it would have hurt Deng’s economic plans and they would not have their nice apartments with flat screens in every room.
The Chinese food culture has been finely tuned for 3,000 years. But when a fast food culture is adopted, Chinese become overweight unlike traditional Chinese practicing customary Chinese eating habits. Chinese growth has accomplished in 10 years what the U.S. did in 50. Our history, fast forward times five, applied to China’s infrastructure, housing, factories, service industries, and stress, is affects the newly wealthy “Comfort Class” in China. Forty-five percent of urban Chinese are at health risk due to stress. They call it “inner heat,” and most Chuppies can cite the physical symptoms. Companies like Avon or Wrigley define and target the comfort class as those earning between $400 and $4,000 a month.
A number of these ‘little emperors’ have no qualms about freely spending their wages on purchases, giving little thought to building their savings as their parents and grandparents have fastidiously done. The potential spending power of Chinese women could be enormous in the next decade. According to estimates from MasterCard International, the total purchasing power of young Chinese women living on their own or in married households with no children is likely to rise from US$180 billion in 2005 to $260 billion in 2015.
Young Chinese are the drivers and chief beneficiaries of the country’s current boom. According to a recent survey by Credit Suisse First Boston, the incomes of 20- to 29-year-olds grew 34% in the past three years, by far the biggest of any age group. And because of their self-interested, apolitical pragmatism, they could turn out to be the salvation of the ruling Communist Party—as long as it keeps delivering the economic goods.
The first Wal-Mart in China is in Shenzhen, the city where Deng made his famous “to be rich is glorious” speech. This store sells all that a family needs or wants. The cosmetics area is much more plush than any Wal-Mart in the U.S. Women who work in offices will have a cheaper brand of lipstick in their homes, but carry a nice brand in their purse so they can be seen using it in public. The signs that hang overhead in this store proudly announce, “Made in China.” This is very different than the best store I could find in China 17 years ago. The best store then was a government “Friendship Store” that had a photo of a female employee on the wall with a sign underneath, “Worst Employee of the Month.” The only way you could motivate workers at that time was to shame them. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, beauty in China is seen as utilitarian. Cosmetics for instance are a major business in China and women in the China Middle see this as an important part of their lifestyle. Wal-Mart aims for the Comfort Class consumer earning between $5,000 and $20,000 a year.
The Yumin Restaurant in Guangzhou is a huge, live reef fish restaurant employing 400 Chinese chefs that has live crocodiles on the floor of the mall-like area. The crocs’ mouths are taped shut, and they will be meals soon, but people just walk by, talking on their cell phones, not paying attention and tripping over live, hissing, charging crocodiles. The pricey, exotic meat—steamed, braised, or stewed—is believed to cure cough and prevent cancer. “People don’t care about the cost,” says manager Wang Jianfei, “they just care about health.”
Yvonne Lo, founder of Diva Life, in her closet trying to decide what to wear for the day—she rarely wears the same outfit twice. Her boutique spas in Shanghai offer 13 types of facials, plus $48 chocolate pedicures. Her father escaped China in 1949 with his family and two of his siblings died in the crossing (there were ten children, his father had multiple wives). Yvonne’s family is typical of the Chinese who were smart enough to get out when it was bad and smart enough to get back in 10 years ago when things were improving. Diva Life is set up for two types of clients—the ex-pat tai tai wives of diplomats and the wannabe Chinese who follow that crowd into Yvonne’s spa. Yvonne has the Diva life. She designs her own furniture, spa, clothes, etc. She spends the morning at the fabric market and meeting with her tailor, and then goes to her office. But the main reason she started the spa is so that she can have a couple hours of spa treatment any day she likes.
The Window on the World amusement park in Shenzhen allows Chinese to travel the world in an afternoon. Behind “Mount Rushmore” in this photo are actors playing Africans in huts and Egyptians at the Great Pyramids of Giza. Historically, Chinese have not been able to travel. Visas are difficult to obtain, so few come to the USA or Australia. Britain and Canada are gearing up for a Chinese tourist assault and other countries will follow. But for now they have to look at the “Eiffel Tower” and “Mount Rushmore” at Window on the World. Because of China’s one-child policy, instituted in 1978, this is the first generation in the world’s history in which a majority are single children, a group whose solipsistic tendencies have been further encouraged by a growing obsession with consumerism, the Internet, and video games. At the same time, today’s young Chinese are better educated and more worldly than their predecessors. Whereas the so-called Lost Generation that grew up in the Cultural Revolution often struggled to finish high school, today around a quarter of Chinese in their 20s have attended college. The country’s opening to the West has allowed many more of its citizens to satisfy their curiosity about the world: some 37 million will travel overseas in 2007. In the next decade, there will be more Chinese tourists traveling the globe than the combined total of those originating in the U.S. and Europe.
This is a meeting of the “farmer” capitalist millionaires in Huaxi Village (Farmers Village), a model farm for the last 45 years. Even though they are the collective ideal of the capitalist model, they still dress in Mao-ish style outfits and make decisions for the 80 businesses in a socialist forum.
These “model farmers” were capitalists before it was allowed in China. They started factories, but worked in them secretly (no windows). When government officials came around, all the workers ran out into the fields and pretended to be peasants. They became the first and most successful capitalist exploitation of the collective.
This is the interior of one of the houses in Huaxi Village (Farmers Village), a model farm for the last 45 years. Even though they are the collective ideal of the capitalist model, these millionaires still adhere to Chinese traditions. One of those traditions is babies with “split pants” and no diapers.
Huaxi Village (Farmers Village), a model farm for the last 45 years, is in the foreground of this photograph and the businesses owned by the “farmers” are in the background. These “model farmers” were capitalists before it was allowed in China. They started factories, but worked in them secretly (no windows). When government officials came around, all the workers ran out into the fields and pretended to be peasants. They became the first and most successful capitalist exploitation of the collective. There have been 30,000 official government visits to this place to see how it is run every year. There are not many model farms left in China, and none with this wealth. This model farm runs about 80 factories, including garment factories and steel mills.
Marriage is different in China, from mass weddings like this, to the “bare branches” phenomenon where there are not enough women for all the men to marry. Couples aspire to the ideal of the billboard above them—the one-child family. But will their son be able to find a girl? According to the 2010 census, there were 118.06 boys born for every 100 girls, which is 0.53 points lower than the ratio obtained from a population sample survey carried out in 2005. However, the gender ratio of 118.06 is still beyond the normal range of around 105 percent, and experts warn of increased social instability should this trend continue. For the population born between 1900 and 2000, it is estimated that there could be 35.59 million fewer females than males. So maybe everyone eventually has a car, but can every boy have a girl? It is important for China’s leaders to placate the Comfort Class. From issues of grave consequence to trivialities, the government has made clear that it will do whatever it takes to keep the swelling middle class happy. In Beijing, for example, newly prosperous residents are snapping up automobiles at a rate of 1,000 a day. The number of vehicles on the capital’s sclerotic roads has doubled in the past five years, to 3 million, or about a million more vehicles than in all of New York City.
The government has made clear that it will do whatever it takes to keep the swelling middle class happy. Like anyone else, their experiences and those of their families shape members of the comfort class. When their parents talk about the Great Leap Forward (the disastrous Mao campaign in the late 1950s that left 20 to 30 million dead of starvation) and the subsequent chaos of the Cultural Revolution, they mostly tell horror stories that would put anyone off politics forever. One event that the comfort class does remember is the crackdown on Tiananmen Square in 1989. But to young Chinese, the Tiananmen protests are less a source of inspiration than an admonishment. Continued popular uprisings like Tiananmen, they believe, would have have provoked a counter reaction by conservative forces that would have led to a return to fortress China, meaning no more iPods, overseas shopping trips or snowboarding weekends.
A  flamboyant bar in south China attracts the new wealth. In the Baby Face Club in Guangzhou, the bartender sets up a stack of glasses, then pours a flaming liquid over the top to make one of the most popular drinks, a Flaming Lamborghini. Young people demand nice places to eat and drink. The news bombards us every day about how China’s economic engine will change our world. At the center of this engine is the “Little Capitalist” class or ”Comfort Class.” This group embraces Deng Xiaoping’s revolutionary proclamation, “To get rich is glorious.” After 50 years of pent up frustration and stoically weathering the worst social experiment in history—Mao’s Cultural Revolution—this class is ready to lead the charge for the most voracious consumption on the planet. Of the five major commodities (grain, meat, oil, coal and steel), only oil consumption is less than the United States. This consumption is estimated to increase by 18 percent each year for the next decade, compared with 2 percent for the U.S.
The number of Chinese adults under 30 was expected to swell 61%, to 500 million by 2015, equivalent to the entire population of the European Union. Ironically populated by children whose parent’s lives were ruined by Mao precisely because they were capitalists, this “Comfort Class” came of age after Tiananmen Square in 1989. They are politically apathetic. To them, Tiananmen Square was a failure and they just want a nice life. Estimates vary, but the higher claims are that there are 150 million in the comfort class, which would equal the size of the U.S. middle class. As their culture turbo-evolves and our culture devolves it is hard not to compare both in terms of political apathy, cushy lifestyle, and preoccupation with the pursuit of consumer goods. Even our policies are starting to sound eerily similar. China’s “Let the Winds of a Civilized Internet Blow” policy (a censorship program), sounds like some of our government euphemisms: “Clean Skies Initiative,” “No Child Left Behind,” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The ghosts of the Cultural Revolution, however, are not that far away—often as close as the parents who have to live with their higher income-producing children. These parents trained these chuppies to be part of the collective, to look out for others before you look out for yourself. And many of these parents are still preaching collectivism and Confucianism when their chuppie offspring come back home after a long day in the modern world of individual achievement and scraping away to get their piece of the pie.
 
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