The Haves and Have Nots
Every weekend, when I hit the town, I pass cars normally kept for the front cover of magazines: gold-platted Lambos, diamond-encrusted Ferraris, or Porsche Cayans with passed out dudes throwing up out of the back window. People love to flaunt their shit here. And flaunt it they do.
We even had our own real life Fast and Furious-style pile up the other day in a Beijing under-pass with the damage caused valued at over $1 million. Ironically this was the same week that Jason Statham and Vin Diesel came to town as Fast & Furious 7 opened in China. The pair were spotted drinking at Park Hyatt's swish and swanky Xiu bar; Vin Diesal reportedly insisted on a private room, while Statham was a lot more down-to-earth and approachable. The crash has hit some parts of the press here, as the owners allegedly come from a normal family and have denied being connected to officials, stating they made their money from playing pool and then investing in stocks and shares. Sure boys, sure.
I guess what I'm getting at is there is some silly money here and lots of it is blown every weekend right before my very eyes. It's all about that Champagne popping lifestyle for many. For some of the a-lister nights like when DJ Steve Aoki visited last year, tables went for £6k a night - with no drinks! More than the average yearly earnings here in China.
Yet, when I come home and I put my rubbish out; within a few minutes an elderly man is sifting through my used toilet paper for recyclables to hand in for a less than a kuai (10p). Most of the people who carry out the street cleaning type duties are 60-70 at least, I don't doubt there are those over 80 too. Unemployment benefits here are extremely limited (around £20 per month) and often mean that people don't have enough to survive on, especially in the more expensive big cities.
Here excess is everywhere, but poverty is always lurking close by in the shadows. It's amazing a country with such a vast gap between the haves and the have nots remains under such tight control. Most locals seem so politically placid, at least to foreigners. I guess they have to be this way regardless of what they feel for fear of resprisals. Having opinions in China can have career-ending, if not deadly, consequences.
The contrasts are hard to to digest at times for people from the developed world, yet all the locals here seem - on the surface - to be at complete peace with it. It's quite hard to fathom, but still China continues to fascinate me more each day.
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Jonathan Sokoloff Appeal
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