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Taobao Specials for the Rich and the Poor

Since China’s shift to a capitalist economy some 30-odd years ago, some people have gotten rich. Many of those people have children, and China is now dealing with its first generation of what are called fuerdai: second-generation rich. The term describes the offspring of China’s most wealthy government officials and businessmen, and conjures up images of spoiled kids with Prada bags, Lamborghinis, and terrible attitudes. And although you can’t buy a Lamborghini on Taobao and you’d be ill-advised to look for Prada there (since a lot of what’s on Taobao is fake), there is still some gear available for fuerdai.

For example, if you’re looking for a way to prove you’re a classless rich kid without wearing it across your chest, you can pick up this fuerdai ID booklet, which resembles a Chinese passport but instead reads fuerdai ID on the front. At less than 1 RMB ($0.16), you don’t even have to actually be rich to pick this one up. And it’s also available in keychain form as a good reminder for anyone who didn’t get the idea when they saw your Maserati. Or here’s another affordable option: a white t-shirt with a print of a 100 RMB note stuck into the front pocket. Still too subtle? Why not just plaster it across your chest with this shirt that has fuerdai written in giant gold characters?

Thankfully, most of this gear is probably targeted at people who want to wear it ironically, but the term fuerdai is used to add a hip, expensive-sounding touch to products that might not otherwise catch your attention. What’s so special about this blanket, for example? It’s a blanket that fuerdai use (a suspicious claim to say the least, given that the thing only costs $6). There are all kinds of clothes from shirts to shoes on Taobao that are being sold as “popular with fuerdai” or “fuerdai style”, despite the fact that most of them are actually quite cheap.

If you’re wondering whether there’s an opposite to fuerdai, there is: qiongerdai, second-generation poor. This describes a much larger swatch of the country than the former term, and as Taobao is a place for bargains there’s a lot of merchandise aimed at them. For example, there’s this clever bumper-sticker, which reads: “I’m qiongerdai, I don’t have any money, so back off!” If you want to take things a step further, there are always t-shirts like this one, which proclaims that the wearer is a single qiongerdai.

It may sound odd that people would intentionally wear clothing advertising that they’re single and poor, but while China’s wealthy do love to show off, Chinese culture still values modesty and conformity, and calling yourself poor, single, ugly (or at least not beautiful), etc. is a way of sounding modest, showing you have a sense of humor, and fitting in with those around you. To that end, I think my favorite fuerdai/qiongerdai product is this three-person t-shirt set (below), which seems designed for a young family to wear. The men’s shirt reads: “I’m not tall, rich, and handsome.” The women’s shirt reads: “I’m not fair-skinned, rich, and beautiful.” And the child’s shirt? “I’m not fuerdai.” The real message isn’t “we lack self-esteem”, it’s more like “we’re just a regular family doing our thing, nothing special.” That’s something a lot of China can agree with.

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