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 SNSs 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 exhibitionism (“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 women). 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…