China's New Money: 'Tuhao' Chinese Criticized For Having Money, But Lacking Taste

 @mflorcruzm.florcruz@ibtimes.com
on October 17 2013 5:51 AM
Gold Car
A customized gold car parked in a Nanjing street First Financial Online

China’s newest symbol of luxury? The double-wide trailer.

China’s increasingly wealthy middle class, a title now estimated to be representative of 300 million people, is expanding its tastes as an increasing number of new-money Chinese shell out cash for some seemingly random stuff.

A new demographic of big spenders has been dubbed by China’s Internet users as “tuhao,” which roughly translates to “uncivilized splendor.” The tuhao have become a punching bag on China’s blogosphere for being the symbol of wasteful wealth and unrefined taste, or as a report by China media blog Tea Leaf Nation puts it, they are China’s version of the "Beverly Hillbillies."

The New York Times explored Beijing’s first RV park, where a night in your trailer costs around $330, which is more than a lot of rooms at the city’s St. Regis hotel, which can run as low as $183 dollars a night. “It’s a new way of living, which appeals to young people," Fang Liping, an English teacher in Beijing who was at the camp site, said in the report. "And I think it’s also a luxurious way of living.” 

Still, the trailer park is, comparatively speaking, only amateur tuhao behavior.

While purchasing a plot in a trailer park may illustrate the hillbilly analogy in its most literal sense, the tuhao are known to have taste for anything expensive or gaudy. While middle-class wealth is quickly becoming the norm, the population is shifting from a classically Chinese habit of flaunting wealth, through flashy designer logos, jewelry and the like, by reining in public displays of money. The shift could be a result of President Xi Jinping’s ongoing mandate against grandiose displays of money among officials, cracking down on large, banquet-style feasts, and stripping down official visits and meetings as much as possible. The crackdown was intended to catch officials who had been showing off their ill-gotten expensive watches, cars and homes to the public, but it seems to have also rubbed off on the public as well.

Some, however, must have missed the memo. China still has a large market for people interested in things that may be deemed by most as tacky, even if those items carry a hefty price tag. With the new release of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) newest phone model, the iPhone5S, customized versions of the mobile device made with 18 karat gold that run from $5,513 to $6,282 were being sold to Chinese tourists by the U.K. based company ZG High Ticket Item Co. But their interest in gold doesn’t stop there; China has sold gilded versions of a lot of random items, from underwear to shoes and even bathtubs.

In perhaps one of the grandest moments of the tuhao generation, a woman in central Anhui province reportedly gave her new son-in-law a 4 million yuan Bentley, worth roughly $650,000, as a wedding gift. The groom was reportedly overwhelmed with joy, and promised to never let down his new wife. The story sparked a firestorm of commentary over the ridiculousness of what many called China’s “most expensive dowry.”

Gold car China A man snaps a shot of a gold-plated Infiniti G37 at a jewelry store in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.  Reuters

Cars are the biggest indicator of tuhao status. While luxury vehicles like Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis are all over the country, a tuhao-owned vehicle is often distinguished by its ostentatious custom colors, which appear in various hues of green, pinks purple and baby blue, or with their crystal-encrusted mirrors and Hello Kitty-branded interiors.  

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