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BEIJING — After the downfall of Bo Xilai, Party Secretary of the Southern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, details of a conservative campaign he mounted have leaked out to the public. Bo started what is known as Chongqing Model, a conservative group given to political agitation by singing patriotic songs full of revolutionary pathos, accompanied by a massive police crackdown against so-called organized crime.
Before Bo was relieved of his title, his Chongqing Model was gaining popularity around China. Quite a few other provinces were beginning to emulate the Chongqing Model and made it a viable alternative to political reform in China.
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Recent stories in the Chinese press and on the Internet revealed that Bo had ruthlessly stripped the rich of their assets and sent them to rot in jail. For example, in a Financial Times article, Li Jun, a former Chongqing billionaire, told a story of how he refused to turn a lot of land he owned into a local park and was subsequently investigated by the police. Li was forced to give up his assets and finally flee the country.
Stories like this have sent shock waves through high society and the small but tight community of rich Chinese. Since 1990, China’s 1 percent has been on a roll, gaining more wealth as well as increasing in numbers as a group. But now, China’s 1 percent is seeking to emigrate to other countries, trying to take its wealth with it.
So it was with serious intentions to invest that the superrich gathered in Beijing to view Chanel’s diamond-studded fine jewelry collection for 2012. The event was well attended and has inspired some serious buying interest. “It fits in a handbag,” one VIP said to me. “My villa won’t.”
The uncertainty in Chinese politics will most likely continue until October, when the Communist Party Central Committee will hold its 18th Plenary Session. Before then, political speculation and rumors are most likely to drive more wealthy Chinese to convert big assets, like villas, into something that can fit into a woman’s purse, or around her neck.
This spring, China will see a flood of events in jewelry and haute couture. April’s calendar is filling up with them: First there is the private viewing of Chanel’s couture show, followed by Cartier’s high jewelry and Dior’s couture show.
We just hope as the political dust settles, some of these beautiful jewels will resurface at glamorous parties in China as well.