Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids

[ed. They'll get ruthless soon enough. It's the nature of wealth.]

Emerging from a nightclub near Workers’ Stadium in Beijing at 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday in June, Mikael Hveem ordered an Uber. He selected the cheapest car option and was surprised when the vehicle that rolled up was a dark blue Maserati. The driver, a young, baby-faced Chinese man, introduced himself as Jason. Hveem asked him why he was driving an Uber—he obviously didn’t need the cash. Jason said he did it to meet people, especially girls. Driving around late at night in Beijing’s nightclub district, he figured he’d find the kind of woman who would be charmed by a clean-cut 22-year-old in a sports car.

When I heard this story from a friend who had also been in the car, I asked for the driver’s contact info. I introduced myself to Jason over WeChat, China’s popular mobile app, and asked for an interview. He replied immediately with a screen shot that included photos of women in various states of undress. “Best hookers in bj :),” he added. I explained there had been a misunderstanding, and we arranged to have coffee.

When we met at a cafe in Beijing’s business district, it was clear that Jason, whose surname is Zhang, was different from other young Chinese. He had a job, at a media company that produced reality TV shows, but didn’t seem especially busy. He’d studied in the U.S., but at a golf academy in Florida, and he’d dropped out after two years. His father was the head of a major HR company, and his mother was a government official. He wore a $5,500 IWC watch because, he said, he’d lost his expensive one. I asked him how much money he had. “I don’t know,” he said. “More than I can spend.” So this was it: I had found, in the wild, one of the elusive breed known in China as the fuerdai, or “second-generation rich.” (...)

It’s no surprise that most fuerdai, after summering in Bali and wintering in the Alps, reading philosophy at Oxford and getting MBAs from Stanford, are reluctant to take over the family toothpaste cap factory. Ping Fan, 36, who serves as executive deputy director of Relay, moved to Shanghai to start his own investment firm rather than work at his father’s real estate company in Liaoning province. He picked Shanghai, he said, “because it was far from my family.” After graduating from Columbia University, Even Jiang, 28, briefly considered joining her mother’s diamond import business, but they disagreed about the direction of the company. Instead, she went to work at Merrill Lynch, then returned to Shanghai to start a concierge service, inspired by the American Express service she used when living in Manhattan. Liu Jiawen, 32, whose parents own a successful clothing company in Hunan province, tried to start her own clothing line after graduating. “I wanted to show I could do it on my own,” she said. The company failed.

Along with riches, fuerdai often inherit a surplus of emotional trauma. The first generation of Chinese entrepreneurs came of age during a time that rewarded callousness. “They were the generation of the Cultural Revolution,” said Wang. “During that time, there was no humanity.” His grandfather, the principal of a middle school in Guizhou province, was humiliated by Red Guards. “They were raised cruelly—there was no mercy. It was survival of the fittest.” Many fuerdai have their parents’ same coldness, Wang said: “They’re really hard to be friends with.”

Zhang, the Uber driver, was sent to boarding school starting in kindergarten, even though his parents lived only a short distance from the school. Perhaps to compensate for their inattention, they gave him everything he wanted, including hundreds of toy cars. Last Christmas he bought himself the Maserati. “It’s like their childhood has not ended,” Wang said of his fellow rich kids. “Their childhood was not fully satisfied, so they always want to prolong the process of being children.” Thanks to China’s one-child policy, most fuerdai grew up without siblings. That’s why so many travel in packs on Saturday nights, Wang said. “They want to be taken care of. They want to be loved.”

For Zhang, partying is a way of staving off boredom. He used to go out clubbing five nights a week. “If I didn’t go, I couldn’t sleep,” he said. He doesn’t lack for companionship, he added. Two or three times a week, he’ll hire a high-end sex worker—a “booty call,” in his words—for $1,000 or more. Zhang prefers paying for sex to flirting with a girl under the pretense that he might date her. “This way is more direct,” he said. “I think this is a way of respecting women.” But some nights, sitting at home alone, he scrolls through the contacts on his phone only to reach the bottom without finding anyone he wants to call. When we first spoke, he said he had a girlfriend of three years who treated him well, but that he didn’t love her. “You’re the first person I’ve told that to,” he said.

Most fuerdai don’t talk about their problems so openly. “They have trust issues,” said Wayne Chen, 32, a second-generation investor from Shanghai. “They need a place to talk. They need a group.” Relay offers a setting in which they can speak honestly, without having to pretend. “It’s similar to a rehab center,” he said.

by Christopher Beam, Bloomberg | Read more:
Image:Ka Xiaoxi