The rich get richer...
Foreigners differentiate Chinese rich and poor people with those in their own countries
Fuerdai, which literally means rich second generation, is a Chinese term that refers to children of nouveau riche wealthy families. The term first became widely known several years ago following frequent media coverage describing them as spoiled and badly behaved. According to media, fuerdai do not work and instead live off of their parents’ bank accounts, spending their empty days driving around in luxury cars, shopping at high- end malls, getting plastic surgery, acting arrogant toward people they consider beneath them and overall contributing nothing positive sitive to society, except perhaps to the GDP.
Qiongerdai, however, refers to children from poor families, and have received significantly less media coverage.
The Global Times recently asked several foreigners in Shanghai about their impressions of fuerdai and qiongerdai and the differences between similar groups in their own respective countries.
Every society has rich and poor people, but the differences between these two groups in some countries are bigger than in other places.
Mariam Turkia, a 28-year-old woman from Georgia, said there is no special name for fuerdai in her country. When she first heard the term in Chinese she was confused by its meaning, but when she learned what the characters meant, she thought it was quite interesting.
“We have a first class and second class, rich people and poor people, in our country,” said 24-year-old Tamires, a student from Brazil.
Jack, a 21-year-old student from the US said his country has similar social classes. “I think we call the rich second-generation ‘rich kids’. But it doesn’t seem to be as big a disparity as it is here. Like in the Shanghai clubs, you’ll see people with body guards,” he said.
Lukas Luthiger from Switzerland said his country does not have such names for the different groups “because in Switzerland, the difference between the rich and the poor isn’t that big.”
“We also have names for children of rich families; we just call them ‘rich kids,’ but it’s more of a joke,” he said.
Media reports often exaggerate the bad behavior of fuerdai, but our interviewees told the Global Times that stereotypes are based on truth.
Mariam said most rich kids are spoiled and drive expensive cars. She has met some Chinese
fuerdai both in China and in the US. “In China, the ones I have met are just a bit show-offy, like they are driving very expensive cars. But in the US the Chinese rich kids usually hang out by themselves in small groups.”
Mariam also found that Chinese fuerdai in the US, prefer to study at an expensive university but don’t actually do any studying. “They just drive around all day in their expensive cars. I have a feeling that they are only there to get a diploma,” she said.
A luxury car and bad academic performance might be telltale signs of the fuerdai group, but the group nonetheless enjoys far more privileges than ordinary people can imagine. Jack said once he met a Chinese friend whose name was King. When Jack looked at King’s WeChat moments, it seemed like King bought a new car nearly every day.
“It’s just insane to me. Because I don’t know anybody in the US that has that kind of money. Although it seems crazy, it’s also very interesting,” he said.
“I remember the first time I went to a club in China, I was in the bathroom and there was a rich kid using the urinal. While he was peeing, one of his two body guards was giving him a back massage and the other was feeding him gum. I was shocked.”
Unlike fuerdai, qiongerdai are less known in
China and abroad. Luthiger said they have no special word for poor people in Switzerland simply because his country does not have many poor people.
“But it’s prevalent in the US and any other place where real estate prices are high. It’s hard for children to move out of their parents’ houses. In the Bay Area, in California, where I’m from, to get an apartment yourself you have to really be doing well. So, there are a lot of people who live at home. But I think that’s changing,” said Jack.
Mariam had never heard the phrase qiongerdai before. But she said that it is not nice to rely on one’s parents, especially when someone has already grown up. “You can get a job by yourself and then move out of your parents’ house,” she said.
Tamires said that in her country it is the same, as people judge each other by the money they have. “It’s really easy to say that someone who is poor has a low education. We do have a lot of stereotypes back there,” she explained.
According to a CNBC report in 2017, researchers found that worldwide inequality has risen in nearly every global region since 1980. The World Inequality Report found that, since 1980, the top 0.1 percent of wealth owners (about 7 million people) captured as much of the world’s growth as the bottom half of the adult population (around 3.8 billion people).
Our interviewees told the Global Times that they were aware of the widening gap between the world’s rich and the poor and attribute it to a variety of reasons.
“In my own country, it’s caused by the bad economy, for sure. There’s a small percentage of rich people who are holding the majority of the wealth in every country, and the middle-classes are not as strong as we want to be,” Mariam said.
“But China is a little bit different. China is getting so rich now. Everything like the economy is flourishing and the government is working well for the country. Chinese people who suddenly get rich don’t really know how to handle all of this money and wealth. That’s the differentiation between China and the rest of the world,” she said.
Luthiger thinks the different income levels are resulting in the gap, but another more important reason is whether a person’s parents were already rich.
“Someone who is rich because he earned it by himself, because of hard work and a good education, is respectable. But if someone just got it from his or her parents, then it’s not really admirable,” he said.
Although most of the interviewees believe that the best way to get wealthy is through hard work and smarts, some feel it is impossible in today’s world.
“Hard work pays well but I don’t think you’re going to get super rich from it. You just have to be in the right place at the right time,” Mariam said.
Fuerdai spend their days driving around in luxury cars and shopping, people say.
The gap betwee n the rich and the poor has been widening worldwide since 1980.