Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich

Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich

John Osburg

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0804783543

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Who exactly are China's new rich? This pioneering investigation introduces readers to the private lives—and the nightlives—of the powerful entrepreneurs and managers redefining success and status in the city of Chengdu. Over the course of more than three years, anthropologist John Osburg accompanied, and in some instances assisted, wealthy Chinese businessmen as they courted clients, partners, and government officials.

Drawing on his immersive experiences, Osburg invites readers to join him as he journeys through the new, highly gendered entertainment sites for Chinese businessmen, including karaoke clubs, saunas, and massage parlors—places specifically designed to cater to the desires and enjoyment of elite men. Within these spaces, a masculinization of business is taking place. Osburg details the complex code of behavior that governs businessmen as they go about banqueting, drinking, gambling, bribing, exchanging gifts, and obtaining sexual services.

These intricate social networks play a key role in generating business, performing social status, and reconfiguring gender roles. But many entrepreneurs feel trapped by their obligations and moral compromises in this evolving environment. Ultimately, Osburg examines their deep ambivalence about China's future and their own complicity in the major issues of post-Mao Chinese society—corruption, inequality, materialism, and loss of trust.





















developments, industrial parks, and designated green spaces. Farmers who once occupied the land were being resettled in high-rises in newly urbanized areas. The vast majority of my informants, if not involved in real estate development as their primary business, were buying up land and apartment units as part of their portfolio of investments. Many entrepreneurs I interviewed who were struggling to find new ventures pinned their hopes on real estate. The networks of entrepreneurs with whom I

sense. Through flattery, pouring drinks, and attentive listening, these hostesses serve as mediums through which men MASCULINITY, SEXUALITY, AND ALLIANCES    63 can construct themselves as ideal male subjects (Allison 1994: 22). What the companies of these businessmen are paying for is the recognition provided by the hostesses that they are attractive, funny, and masculine. According to Allison, this results in a kind of subjectivity that makes for good and committed workers—self-assured and

pursuits and forms of social distinction, which is understood by many Chengduers as the hallmark of elite status in the West, leads to a kind of social invisibility that undermines the very foundations of their “boss” status. This contradiction is perhaps best revealed in the domain of consumption, where elite Chinese I encountered exhibited an alternating tendency toward extreme legibility and paranoid secrecy. Instead of the “chase and flight” model (McCracken 1988: 94–103) in which the upper

female entrepreneurs I worked with differentiated between those who had received assistance from men or received their initial capital from divorces and those whose success was solely a product of their own efforts. The lack of desirability of nüqiangren contrasted strongly with the sexual idealization of “white-collar women” (bailing nüxing) among the businessmen I interviewed and in many popular film and literary representations. Whitecollar women’s careers were understood to be products of

their peers and in the business world, cause strains in their primary household, and siphon away their wealth. Sexual Bribery Given the close association between mistresses and corruption, several Chinese legal scholars have been engaged in an ongoing debate over the proposal to make sexual bribery a crime. Proponents of this proposal point to the fact that virtually all corruption cases over the past two decades have involved some form of “trading in power and sex” (quansejiaoyi). They point to

Download sample