In recent years, as China has become wealthy, the streets of Beijing have been flooded with billboards for penthouses, fine wines and exclusive golf clubs. The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce has now ask companies to remove words such as “luxury”, “royal”, “supreme” and “high class” from billboards, or face a 30,000 yuan fine. It added that such aspirational advertisements help to create a politically “unhealthy” climate.
It also said that advertisements should not encourage Chinese to aspire to a “foreign” lifestyle. Many rich Chinese openly flaunt Italian designer clothes, drive German luxury cars and drink French wine and Chinese companies have caught on to the value of creating a “foreign-sounding” brand. Meanwhile, the central city of Chongqing also issued a similar regulation, banning property developers from labeling their new blocks of apartments or gated housing compounds as “best”, “unique” or “irreplaceable”. Wen Jiabao, the premier, said earlier this month that “resolving unfair income distribution” would be a priority of the country’s next five-year plan, which also aims to put “happiness”, rather than economic success, at the core of the country’s agenda.
China’s wealth gap is a serious threat to the country, according to the government, which recorded last year that the average income in a Chinese city is now three times that of a person living in the countryside. Chinese officials are struggling to cool criticisms over a widening income gap at a time when high inflation has put economic pressure on the country’s hundreds of millions of low-income farmers and industrial workers.
The brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets predicted in January that China would become the world’s largest luxury goods market by 2020, accounting for 44 percent of worldwide sales and bigger than the entire global market is now.