Beijing Billionaires depicts the nouveau riche and their lavish lifestyles in Communist China. A third of the world’s luxury-good consumers are Chinese. Many others in the country have made their fortunes by catering to the insatiable appetites of its super-rich. From providing luxury concierge service to offering British-themed wedding photography, Chinese entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the desires of their billionaire compatriots.
How did Communist China transform from a country where people needed ration coupons to buy meat to one that boasted 373 billionaires as of 2017? China’s economic reforms began in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who famously declared, “Let some people get rich first.” The irony of a Communist country championing wealth disparity is lost on many of China’s well-heeled youth. Known as the fu erdai — the rich second generation — the children of Chinese billionaires flaunt their wealth on social media and fetishize British aristocratic culture. Even those who aim to carry on their family businesses see little irony in the idea of being super-rich and communist.
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While the mega-wealthy are buying out shops on London’s Savile Row, the 30 million people living in poverty are hoping that the government will keep its promises. President Xi Jinping has vowed to eradicate poverty by 2020 — a tall order. Will the elite who have won big from China’s economic reforms play a role in lifting up the less fortunate? Or will they instead remain in their own class of the young and rich?