We’ve all heard how China is now home to a growing number of newly minted millionaires and billionaires. China’s fabulously wealthy has a lot of disposable income, and the amount of money they’re willing to invest in unconventional hobbies and luxury items is simply astounding. What’s the newest hot commodity? Tibetan mastiffs.
Yep, that’s right. Those big, shaggy dogs that can grow up to 80 kilograms and are known for their fierce guarding instincts have become the latest must-have luxury item for China’s ultra-rich. The 6th annual China Tibetan Mastiff Expo was held in Jiangsu Province this past weekend, and hundreds of owners and their dogs eagerly sought willing breeders who would pay top price for mating rights, according to a recent AP article.
Tibetan mastiffs can go for tens of thousands of dollars or more in China. Last year, a woman in northern China bought one for a record of over half a million dollars.According to an article from Xinhua, the must-haves for wealthy men in northern China now include a young beautiful wife, a Lamborghini, and a Tibetan mastiff. Though judging by recent regulations, mastiff owners should be pretty careful about walking their dogs in public these days.
The funny thing is, in the U.S., Tibetan mastiff pups can be bought for much less – as little as several hundred dollars.
As more Chinese become wealthier, it’s no wonder that their lifestyle trends and purchasing habits have come under intense scrutiny. At the end of 2008, China had over 400,000 households each with a net worth of more than $1 million in assets, according to Boston Consulting, and this number is expected to grow to 600,000 households by 2011. Consequently, China is poised to become the world’s largest luxury goods market within the next five to seven years.
So what else constitutes a status symbol among China’s elite?
Flashy cars are a given. But whereas in the West it’s all about driving the most ostentatious car yourself, in China it’s all about – the chauffeur. There’s a reason why Porshe debuted a four-door sedan with ample legroom in the backseat at the Shanghai auto show last year: to entice China’s back-seat loving bosses.
Thoroughbred horses are another hot-list item. A number of private ranches have cropped up around Beijing where their owners are importing thoroughbreds from Kentucky for millions of Yuan.
The tastes of the moneyed also run towards the body parts of endangered species. China is the biggest importer of ivory, a commodity that has traditionally been associated with wealth and fortune. Although the trading of ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1989, the organization allowed China to bid for tusks from official stockpiles of ivory collected from elephants that had died naturally in 2008, and you can bet that China outbid Japan to import a hefty amount of those.
Dried seahorses are another coveted product. Used in traditional Chinese medicine, seahorses are believed to have many curative qualities. Chinese consume up to 250 tons of dried seahorses every year, equating to tens of millions of the creatures killed every year, leading many to voice concerns about the possibility of extinction.
As the legions of wealthy continue to multiply in China and their appetite for fine goods grows more voracious, one thing is clear – their impact will be felt around the world.