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Luxury Brands Turn China Party Congress Into 'Beijing Fashion Week'

Posted by Abe Sauer on March 12, 2012 03:01 PM

去他媽的人大代表!

That is the reaction of one Chinese Weibo user to photos of government officials arriving for the annual “two sessions” of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress. His NSFT (not safe for translation) assessment stemmed from the fact that numerous of the "people's" leaders showed up with luxury brand-name handbags, some costing more than the average citizen's annual salary.

The outrage is notable for a number of reasons, from just how well-known luxury brands have become to just how much those luxury brands expose what the "Communist" nation is all about.

Dior glasses and bags, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Gucci, Hermes Birkin, Bottega Veneta, and the list goes on, from CPPCC committee member Xu Jiayin and his 20,000 yuan ($3,280) Hermes belt to China Power International Chair Li Xiaolin's $1,000 Chanel necklace. The parade of luxury goods led Chinese netizens to declare the meeting “北京时装周," or "Beijing Fashion Week."

Weibo was flooded with comments on the show, with many posting pictures along with their comments. One popular message was a collection of some of the officials along with their brands and the costs.

China Smack collects a number of netizen reactions to the display. One asks if the name of the event should be changed to the “名牌代表大会" or “Luxury Brands Representatives Conference." In a nation where the ironic is no surprise, this display of luxury branding stands out for its irony when juxtaposed with a rule last year in Beijing that aimed to ban the use of the term "luxury" because of the "increasing chasm between the rich and poor and the cultural disease of 'hedonism.'"

Well, what is a government made up of billionaires supposed to wear, Old Navy? A fortuitous report just before the "two sessions" revealed that "the richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president and his Cabinet, and the nine Supreme Court justices."

On a serious note, the conspicuous display of so many luxury brands by the richest and most powerful in the nation certainly flies in the face of recent attempts by China to develop and strengthen its homegrown brands.

For example, a new rule demands that all state-owned vehicles must be domestic brands, barring the cadre class from the heretofore favorite brands like Audi and BMW. If China is serious about giving domestic brands a boost, it certainly doesn't seem like it. The message its rulers are sending is clear, foreign luxury brands are still king.

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