Thirty years ago it was Japan’s turn. Now the “bubble” is China’s to enjoy, while Japan languishes on the sidelines, drawing what consolation it can from the prodigious amount rich Chinese spend on their Japanese vacations.
Shukan Gendai (Sept 24–Oct 1) doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry as it reports on the phenomenon. There’s the story of the coal magnate in coastal Zhejiang province south of Shanghai who bought eight Rolls Royces, four Ferraris, and numerous other foreign luxury cars -- 26 altogether, for a parade for his son’s wedding. The entire bash cost the equivalent of 1.21 billion yen. Japan’s Nagoya is famous for glitzy weddings, but nothing there holds a candle to that.
In Nanjing, there’s a little girl who owns (though she may not know it yet) a 48 million yen country estate – a gift from her grandparents, for her second birthday.
In Hubei province in east-central China, there’s a marriage brokerage that stages what the Japanese call "miai" – parties where prospective marriage partners can meet. Admission: 1.2 million yen. Plus this proviso: You’re not welcome unless you possess at least 360 million yen in assets or a minimum annual income of 1.2 million yen. It’s for rich people seeking rich mates.
Environmental problems and food safety concerns are rife in China. You can, as most people do, study the food labels and make sure you trust the producer – or you can buy up your own farms and pastures. There’s a lot of the latter going around, says Shukan Gendai, citing a Communist Party newspaper.
How much, exactly? There are ways to quantify it. For example: there are 128 known Chinese billionaires, in dollar terms – compared to only 28 Japanese. True, China’s per capita GDP is only one-tenth Japan’s, but even so, 960,000 Chinese have assets – stocks, art, real estate – valued at 20 million yen or more. Their average age, moreover, is 39. There’s a long life of wealth accumulation still ahead of them.
The magazine takes us to an auction in a room in a nondescript building in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi. On the block is a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) picture scroll. Many of the bidders are Chinese tourists, with their interpreters. One of these tourists will take it home with him, having parted with 20 million yen, which, apparently, he will not miss.
“It started five or six years ago,” says the auctioneer – “a big increase in the number of Chinese coming to bid. There are antique tours, organized in China. At peak we get tour buses pulling up with nearly 200 people. It’s a big business chance for us.”
Another auctioneer adds, “They come from parts of China I’ve never even heard of, and spend tens of millions of yen. Then they go home and tell the local newspapers, ‘We’re bringing back antique Chinese treasures from Japan!’”
Are they genuine? Who knows? The prevailing attitude among the Chinese, says Shukan Gendai, is, “the Japanese don’t sell fakes.”
None of this, the magazine makes clear, is evidence that China’s economy is sound. Much fortune acquisition takes place in, or beyond, a legal gray zone. Of the 72 Chinese billionaires known to have died since 2003, it says, 46 died unnaturally – murder, suicide or execution. It’s a very precarious existence.© Japan Today