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China Headed for a "Class War"?

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While "conspicuous luxury consumption may not be on its deathbed quite yet in China," Avery Booker of Jing Daily suggests that "social tensions" over a widening wealth gap "may ultimately put the last nails in bling’s coffin."

"In education, recruitment, employment and various other sectors, the pattern of power-retention by the powerful is solidifying, yet the rights of the lower classes often suffer encroachment," Dai Zhiyong of Southern Weekend newspaper wrote last year. "The hardening of the hierarchy is right before our eyes. The channel of upward mobility for the lower classes is narrowing by the day."

And though Forbes says that "financial turmoil gripping the world has had little effect on wealth in China, where an ongoing economic boom keeps creating new U.S. dollar billionaires," Taiwan's Want China Times says "the rich in China are ... vulnerable to threats, physical violence and blackmail."

Is China ready to boil over?

"The Gini coefficient in China has been continuously rising after it reached the alarming 0.4-level 10 years ago," researcher Chang Xiuze told the Economic Information Daily in 2010. With 0.5 being the point at which income inequality is thought to lead to social unrest, China is dangerously close the the precipice.

And Jonathan Manthorpe of the Vancouver Sun notes that rank-and-file Chinese "are not responding meekly to revived servitude," creating a "seething undercurrent of discontent" and leading to an estimated 180,000 "strikes, demonstrations, and riots involving over 1,000 people," or, 493 each day, taking place around the country last year.

These factors are largely why Jing Daily's Booker believes China's wealthy will, in the face of "public disdain" for outward displays of extreme affluence, gravitate to what he terms "low-key luxury."

Writes Booker:

While there will always be a market for garish, tank-like Russian SUVs, chunky diamond-studded watches, and logo-festooned bags, the country’s ultra-wealthy, becoming ever more cautious about consumption, will likely gravitate towards boutique labels, private clubs and discreet concierge services.

Who are these fortunate sons? Literally, the fortunate sons and daughters of China's ruling elite.

According to the Sunday Times of London, a 2010 survey "by officially sponsored academics" found that "91% of Chinese citizens worth more than £10m -- or 2,932 out of 3,220 people -- were the children of senior officials." Children of government officials are also reported to control the country's twelve largest property companies and 85% of "the lucrative business of operating toll motorways."

Naturally, there will always be those who have it, and continue to flaunt it.

Last October, "internationally recognized" (as per the Global Times) polo player Liu Shilai opened Beijing's Tangren Polo and Equestrian Club.

"Polo attracts me, for it is one of the most difficult sports, with its combination of wisdom, courage, team cooperation and trust, the complex of sports, luxury and noble spirit, " Liu told the paper.

It also attracts people -- like himself -- who can afford the club's one million yuan ($150,000) membership fees.

From where did Liu's fortune come?

CNN describes him as "a prominent businessman."

And?

Oh, and, um...a "grandson of one of China’s former vice premiers."

Surprised?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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