"We are learning the consumption life," C said later. "Nobody knows what to do when they become rich, so they just buy things mindlessly." I asked what motivated them, and he told me about guys who try to show off by buying Ferraris. "Oh man, Chinese people like showing off so bad! Okay, here's a story. Ferrari: How it works is, when you buy a Ferrari, you pay part of it up front, and they go and build you the car, and then, when they deliver it, you have to pay for the rest of it. My friend works for Ferrari. He said they make a car that's undeliverable every month. Someone orders a Ferrari to show off and can't pay for it every month!"
We ate for a while. Then C laughed to himself. "The problem," he said, "isn't the billionaires. It's the millionaires." That was kind of an awesome thing to say: Dude, you know who's ruining it for everyone with their crass bullshit? Those low-rent millionaires.
Already the germs of class are beginning to appear in a country in which all wealth is new. It's what Sara Jane Ho was talking about when she drew a distinction about the women who take her classes: "My clients are not the overnight-mushroom millionaires. They are not the people you see misbehaving abroad. People who just came into money are still trying to buy the Hermès bag. My clients were buying the Hermès bag ten years ago."
a tip of the hat to Jim