More than a year ago we published a post on the Chengdu government’s new development for foreigners in the south side of the city, entitled “A Home of Our Own?” The development garnered a lot of unfavorable press in the Chinese blogosphere with many netizens angry over what seemed to be preferential treatment for foreigners. One quote that summarized a lot of the sentiment was from Gen Zhai who wrote an essay on the subject:
“One look and this smacks of the old concessions during the Qing Dynasty, but there is one big difference. Back then the foreigners made us do it; this time we are doing it to ourselves.”
The bad press motivated local consultancy firm Maxxelli Real Estate to take over the PR and management for the development and I recently took a trip to Tianfu International with Maxxelli’s boss Peter Kuppens to see what is really going on there.
I have to admit, I was very impressed. The homes themselves are beautiful two- and three-story houses with impeccable interior design. The complex has a huge swimming pool with hot tubs and a spa center and an on-site multimedia building offers movies in 3D. A staff member was watching Avatar alone and as soon as I stepped in he jumped up and addressed me in English. He looked like a farmer in a uniform but he had obviously been rehearsing his lines for this very moment:
“Welcome to Tianfu International Community, sir. Would you like a tour of our complex?”
Although Peter was my guide for this particular trip, the man followed us around and pointed out the espresso machine (Very good coffee, sir) and urged us to go upstairs and check out the lounge area.
In a lot of the comments in the previous story, the idea of a “foreigner only” housing complex was lampooned. But most of the lampooning was done by young China vets with no intention of spending 30-40k yuan on anything, let alone for rent. The complex isn’t targeting young bums like me and my friends.
Wealthy white collars with corporate packages. That’s who this complex was built for and three families – two Dutch and one Belgian – have already signed on for a year. For Chengdu vets, it might seem preposterous to spend 30k on a home, no matter how beautiful the interior, how warm the pool, how 3D the theater … but I spent a year in Shanghai and it’s already been happening there.
What this really means is that Chengdu is coming up.
Finally Get that Card Game Going
In Shanghai I played a lot of Texas Hold-em with a lot of expats. We played 5/10 and 10/20. What this means is that the big and small blinds were at a minimum 5 and 10 yuan (Check the rules of Hold Em for details). Pots could quickly reach 2000, 5,000 and even 10,000 yuan.
Here in Chengdu most crowds play for 0.5 or 1 yuan on the blinds. Big pots might reach 100 yuan. Tiny, tiny potatoes. The major reason why is because Chengdu expats still number in the low thousands and most of us are living simple lives on simple salaries. More developed towns like Shanghai have more than enough expats who make big money to fill dozens of card games. Whenever one of them gets shut down by the police, another pops up.
What I’m getting at here is that with an increase in wealthy expats with 30k to burn on a home so wifey can maintain upper middle class status, we might finally get that card game going.
Speaking of wifey: in cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the foreign “Taitai” (??, wife) is a fixture of the scene. She usually gets dropped off in a fat Chrysler van, a couple kids in tow, shops till she drops and then has a baller meal at a place like Goga.
They enrich our lives. With taitais around, we can expect better restaurants (micro-brews anyone?), more young kids at the Bookworm, better international schooling, various support groups (knitting, wine tasting, cougar tutorials) to complement the snazzy “Single Malt Club” that we already have. Every international city of any standing has the socialite scene and the scandal that comes with it. We’re being gentrified and we should welcome it.
Hell, Chengdu Living might get itself a weekly post from an embedded high society columnist.