I just made a table of price comparison of various goods/services between China and US. It reminded of how I recently told two visitors from US that the (semi formal) shoes which I’m wearing now and have been for over half a year I bought at a Fred Meyer like store for 39 RMB which is less than $6. I was looking to buy a new pair of shoes then as a backup and in the process I went into some shoe store in some mall with Nike and other famous US brands. I knew I would not buy those but out of curiosity I asked for the price of one of the cheaper ones and the answer I got was like 800 some RMB or maybe 600 some. Those were tennis shoes 球鞋 so not fair to compare but still. Basically it’s these US brands getting a big profit margin through their brand name from selling such overpriced stuff that is manufactured in China by people earning very low wages and their bosses the factory owners acting as compradors.
So this reminds of how buying these Western luxury brands in China to many is a sign of status. It signals wealth and is considered cool whereas the native Chinese brands are considered 土 and uncool and for the masses for the people who don’t have money and are not cosmopolitan or Western. Plenty of the nouveau rich splurge into that stuff which includes BMWs and Chanel and Louis Vuitton stuff I have no interest in. As for services you have the analogous international schools and US undergrad again overpriced junk.
I remember eating out with these two businessmen who are rough-mannered and never went to college but drove BMWs. Now it’s true that Chinese cars are not good but still they work and I have a relative (smart and educated) with probably about or even over $10 million net worth (made in China) who drives a Chinese brand car who also looks down on the superficial wealth and success epitomized by these luxury Western brands. He said that often the more you see calligraphy and art displayed in a person’s home or office the more it is a signal of that person’s not being that smart or educated because people who were secure about their culture or education would have no psychological need to do that.
Those nouveau Chinese rich many who splurge and show off their wealth often abroad belong somewhat in that category. They’re not that smart or educated but they had what it took to succeed in business. They feel as a result of their money that they’re hot shit and they also have some fear about the security of their wealth in China under rule of the Leninist CPC, so they want to try to diversify. They don’t have any real chance of getting serious power in China and buying their or their kids’ way into mainstream America is even more laughable. And in general the more they have in America wealth and kids wise the less influential they and their family will be in China.
This luxury brand signaling and social climbing will get you some stuff in certain circles in peace time but in war time (that includes economic war) it’s mostly useless and even a liability, when you have to show your cards for real. So as Duke of Qin has written, the Chinese system under CPC is pretty good at filtering out the disloyal superficial status whoring liberal trash on a continuous basis. The government system 体制内 doesn’t permit much of that behavior. For example, the actors and singers and composers in 体制内 are expected to conform to certain norms in how they act and look, the women are not allowed to behave like sluts in the likes 郭美美 or 章泽天 in outside entertainment. They and many of the nouveau riche who splurge onto Western labels may think they’re cool and successful and rich but the reality is that they are not actually very mainstream in China in terms of their political influence especially. You may think you’re cool but those “uncool” people in 体制内 have power over you and if they really want to they can shut you out.
Lastly I want to note that not all nouveau riche are as described above. Plenty aren’t and a good example is the Huawei founder, who is former 体制内. They might still consume some luxury Western brands, particularly for their children, but it’s generally in a more superficial way and at the core they are very different in their personality and value system and also the way they do business, as far as I can tell.