For almost as long as records have existed being a member of an exclusive club or organisation has been the preserve of the rich elite around the world. As well as giving them access to people and resources, it makes them feel privileged and provides an ideal way to flaunt their wealth among their super-rich peers. In other words somewhere to show off.

The opening-up of China has allowed a small minority of people to become ridiculously rich in a very short period of time and behind this has followed all the trappings of those with more money than sense/taste; luxury cars, designer clothing, holiday villas, expensive electronics, and many other less savory vices.

Entrepreneurs are also lining up to cash in on this new generation of the newly moneyed and in the digital age where everyone is perpetually online what better way to bring together rich yuppies and high-end brands than through an exclusive social network which prides itself on selecting only the affluent and “beautiful”. Enter P1.cn. Below is how their email invitation reads:

P1.CN is a social networking site for exceptional people like you who are ambitious, desirable, fashionable and brilliant.

To ensure the quality of our members, P1.CN is invite only.

Yes, it seriously says this (in both Chinese and English). Most of its members are invited by street photographers / spotters or friends of existing members. Being neither affluent nor beautiful I’m not quite sure how I ended up with an invitation but out of curiosity I signed up. This is what greets you:

Functionality is similar to Facebook and other SNS‘s with user profiles, friends, photo galleries, forums, chat, blogs and magazine style editorials (mostly about fashion). Advertising comes courtesy of luxury brands such as Versace, Bentley, TAG Heuer, Hennessy, and Adidas.

Content wise it’s a painful mix of self-indulgent exhibitionalism (“look at me! look at me!”) and blatant materialism (the “what did you buy recently?” forum is very popular). Apparently most of its approximate half-a-million members spend at least 4,000 yuan (£375) a month on clothes, electronics and partying (the majority of which are woman). When you consider this in relation to how Chinese outside the big cities are living it’s really quite grotesque (the average monthly salary is below 2,000 yuan).

Still, if you’re looking for somewhere to swap tips about the best place to buy a Ferrari, pick up a trophy wife, post pics of your pampered pets, or just hang out with a bunch of vapid narcissist’s then this could be the place for you!

Oh China, if only Mao could see you now…

Comments

  1. Yaoyao says:

    The superficial prosperity cannot conceal the void within.
    Hope more people can learn to listen to the voice of the heart.
    Knowing the true meaning of life will make people feel more happy.

    By the way,The average salary in big cities:
    SZ 3621
    SH 3292
    GZ 3780
    BJ 3726

  2. David says:

    Thanks for your comment Yaoyao. As Deng Xiaoping told the people “To get rich is glorious” – the way I see it money is almost a religion here (and many other places) which is used in part to pacify people from questioning authority. Subtle brainwashing if you like…

    The 2000 average I mentioned is outside the big cities but interesting to see all the major cities are a similar level.

  3. Hu says:

    Very interesting post. David. I appreciate it when you dig a little deep than just show casing a beautifully designed site and relate it to the ideology. Could you please send me an invite too? I am researching on China’s SNS and would like to figure out what is going on with the bi-lingual aspect of the site.
    Thanks again for the insightful post.

  4. Hu says:

    Also interesting enough, most of the “luxury” commodity is at least 1/3 more expensive in SH and BJ than here in LA.( including major brand skin-care, make-up, clothing, jewelry etc. Hershey’s chocolate was 3 times more expensive in Raffles City than in Beverly Hills ) Despite of the average income, that is.

    Do you have the median income of SH and / or BJ? It would be helpful to compare average vs. median?

    • David says:

      Hi Hu – thanks for your comment, I have just invited you.

      I’m not surprised to hear what you say about the prices being cheaper in LA – like in Japan foreign companies always gouge asian consumers for goods considered “luxury”. I guess some people who can afford this stuff have more money than sense anyway 😀

      Finding accurate salary data in China is a bit hard but you might want to check this out: http://newchinacareer.com/salary-by-province/NCC/en/news/369/test.html – it looks pretty current.

      BTW… didn’t know you lived in LA – what’s it like there? I always hear people saying you can’t go anywhere there without a car!

  5. Brian says:

    Hi, can I please please please have an invite? I’m sooo curious about what the elite class of China wears!

  6. Emily says:

    Intriguing post, David.
    I was researching SNS in China and espcially fashion and found the exactly what I needed.
    I am living in New York and we also have the similar site like lookbook and such.

    could you please invite me?
    I’ll love to see what its like!!=)

    • David says:

      Hi Emily (and others) – I would love to send people invites but unfortunately the site has introduced a new program which only allows people with VIP status to invite new members. You would probably be better off contacting P1 directly – sorry.

  7. Edouard says:

    I’m very curious about this project. Could you please send me an invite ?

    Thanks a lot !

  8. francois says:

    Hi David

    I will be also interesting to get an invitation if possible and see how our Chinese friends use this social network, which is a kind of alternative to “a small world”.

    Could be also useful to improve my Mandarin

    🙂

  9. Tina says:

    I got pictures taken and only took p1.cn as some street snapshot website. If you wanna witness real ” Chinese money-oriented” or ppl flighting to flaunting their wealth, try http://www.55bbs.com/ or http://www.onlylady.com. I’m pretty sure you would be impressed, p1.cn is nothing compared to those websites.

    Agree with what u said “money is like a religion in china” , i guess each society has to experience the dark and chaotic stage when old /good and traditional value, moral system crashed and the new one hasn’t set up yet.

    Speaking of flaunting, personally I think it’s something deeply rooted in the chinese blood, esp those who never give themselves a chance to search inside what they want and who they are. And some ppl they just live for “face”.

    In all, nice blog !

  10. Joe Z says:

    This sounds like one of those really wrong but extremely profitable ideas. Kinda like the online equivalent of a country club. Just saw the CHINCIT this year, you have any updates on the site? Would love to see more about how it evolved over the year. Thanks!

    • David says:

      Hi Joe – thanks for your comment. Looking at P1 today it doesn’t seem to have changed much from when I first wrote this although it now has a shopping “Mall” area where people can buy luxury goods though a number of partners. It’s hard to gauge how it’s performing…

  11. Elaine says:

    Such an interesting article! I would love to get an invite and see what’s behind this website. I’m doubtful that it really is THAT exclusive.

  12. Kadaye says:

    I just received an invitation as well, but during the registration they ask you to provide online email information so they can check your contacts (in Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail etc.) to verify whether you have 5 contacts that are already a member on P1. If so, you are also allowed inside. I am curious whether one of you has also done this? I am afraid that my entire contact list will be used to send spam, or is that just paranoia?

    • David says:

      Yes that sounds a bit fishy – probably legit but I wouldn’t let a company in China anywhere near my email contact list.

      • Kadaye says:

        They actually ask you for your email address and the password for that account..
        ehm.. That’s a no-go right there!

  13. Ines says:

    Thank you for such an intriguing information and post! I am writing an essay about the two-sided aspects of China and believe this will be a great resource and supporting evidences. Could you send me an invitation as well?
    By the way I am new to this blogging website so I am uncertain whether you can see my email:)

    Thanks again!:D

  14. tomahawk says:

    On the contrary, P1 is not as exclusive as anyone made it out to be. There are many students out there and a lot of women waiting to hook up to being mistresses. I have more than one thousand friends on my list and I hardly get to know more than 1% of them. It is a waste of time and totally aimless. Unlike weibo, P1 is only for people looking to hookup and pickup. As a social networking site, weibo is more meaningful. Facebook has gone through many cycles of changes and improvement. The P1 format is still the same as when I first enrol as member. A waste of time.

    • tilai says:

      I’d appreciate if you could send me an invite. I just got a friend who got invited and had her pictures posted by their photographer. But as I don’t have their required 5 existing friends in that social network, I can’t get access to view her pictures. And she doesn’t know how to send an invite, if possible (seems that is limited to VIP members). Thanks.

  15. Heidi says:

    Found this a little late, interesting article. Is it too late to get an invite?

  16. Anais Guerchovitch 郭安娜 says:

    Very complete and interesting post. I was looking for more information about this special Chinese social networks for a long time now.
    Could you send me an invite to a French girl specialized into luxury field in China.

    Thanks
    Best regards,
    Anais

  17. Mikaela says:

    Nice layout, seems to be an ASW copycat, but only targeting China. These invitation only sites appeal greatly to insecure individuals and rich and insecure=a dream combo for any marketer. Interestingly enough Internations started out as invite only as well, and then they opened the gates to mass market betting on quantity over quality. Minglonaire is new and upcoming in Asia, not by invite yet, shall see if they close it up to raise site’s profile.

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