SHANGHAI — What seems to be getting the most attention at this year’s parliamentary meetings in Beijing is not necessarily what government officials are saying but rather what they are wearing.
Since the National People’s Congress (the NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (the CPPCC) began Monday, photos have emerged — and been shared thousands of times online — of delegates decked out in designer gear and it’s prompting a luxury backlash.
Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese premier Li Peng and current CEO of China Power International Holding Ltd., was photographed wearing pink suit with black lapels from that is seemingly identical to one from Pucci’s spring-summer collection.
Xu Jiayin, chairman of one of China’s biggest real estate companies, is sporting a belt with a none-too-subtle H buckle. Yang Lan, a media personality and entrepreneur, looks to be carrying a quilted bag from a Marc Jacobs collection a few years ago, while Zheng Mingming, a cosmetic brand founder, is photographed with what appears to be a genuine Birkin bag on her arm.
The photos have been posted and reposted on numerous Chinese websites. On Sina Weibo, the country’s biggest micro blog, they have been shared more than 11,000 times and garnered nearly 2,000 comments.
“It’s totally like a fashion show,” remarked one netizen on Sina Weibo.
Many comments have been critical, issuing opinions that the delegates “can’t represent the people, because many of us can’t afford those brands.”
Others have said what they buy is their own business: “We should keep a calm attitude on this,” said a netizen called pepsi_Liu. “As long as they can offer good ideas of how to promote economic growth and give us a better life, it’s not big deal how expensive their bags are.”
“Everybody wants to pursue a good quality life,” remarked another netizen. “The British people are proud to see their prince and princess dressing in glorious clothes. But we make such a fuss seeing a delegate wear a belt that costs 5,000 yuan [about $800]. We can be poor, but we can’t be jealous of the rich.”
China’s growing gap between the rich and poor has only been exacerbated by reports online and in state media centering on Chinese billionaires and, sometimes government officials, indulging in ostentatious spending on luxury goods, overseas education for their children or other investment or high dollar purchases both at home and abroad.
The government has issued warnings that such showings of wealth should be tempered as it is not helping efforts to solve public outrage over the country’s income gap. Last year, officials in the Beijing ordered luxury brands in the capital to remove outdoor advertisements that overly emphasized extravagant lifestyles.