Can Money Buy Happiness?

By: michelletan

(Editor’s note: Let’s welcome our new colleague, Lily, to the team! Read her article below on how people in China are chasing after material goods in place of happiness, which was published on Ovi Magazine.)


Talking of China, most people must be thinking about The Great Wall, low cost Made-in-China goods, and the fast growing economics in the past 30 years. Well, let’s leave those behind and have a look at of modern Chinese people’s life.

5,000 years of history makes China a mystery to the Western world. However, same as everywhere else, money is always important to Chinese, but it has never been so important as it is right now.

Currently in China, luxury is king. According to a Goldman Sachs report released December 11, Chinese buyers consume world’s 12 percent luxury goods and has become the largest market for it. Luxury giant Louis Vuitton, currently has 36 stores in 29 Chinese cities, compares to 2005 only in 10 cities. There are certain percentage of modern Chinese women believe that owning Luxury items is what they are living for.  But it is hard to believe, it is in a country that GDP per capita is ranking 90th in the world at 2011, which is only 5,417 USD.

Couple of months ago, I met a group of college students during my trip in Cheng Du. It was interesting when I asked them, Do you all have girl friends? Their answers are mostly the same, No. I was wondering where are all the girls in their college? The guys told me, they are too poor to have girlfriends; they can’t afford things that make girls happy. Well, then what makes college girls happy I wondered.  I thought romantic relationship could be simple and pure, especially in schools. But the desire of owning luxury items just pushed some young ladies to the wrong path. Relationship is no longer about feelings and passion, but a reward for whoever could satisfy their expensive needs.

Not only college boys, most young men who are ready to get married also faced the same kind of problems. It is the tradition that groom’s family should prepare a new house/apartment for the new couple, to keep the family secured. In July 2012, the average flat price in the 100 Chinese cities surveyed is CNY8,717 (US$1,377) per square meter (sq. m.) With very low income, it’s not easy for a Chinese young man to purchase a house or even a flat. It is funny when a man seeks approval from the bride’s family, the future mother-in-law wouldn’t ask “Do You Love My Daughter”, but “Do You Own A House/Apartment”. Normally, they wouldn’t approve it if the house/apartment is rented.  Obviously, these women believe big houses, fancy cars and a rich husband are keys to a happy marriage.

A mad rush for material goods is a common sight

My Irish friend David works as an English teacher in a small Chinese town. People always asked him, why not go to big cities like Beijing or Shanghai to earn much more. He says” I love this place, people are nice and I enjoy living here, life isn’t just about  how much I get paid, I live to be happy”. However, many Chinese don’t understand David; some of them even think he’s wasting time. In majority Chinese people’s mind making money is the greatest mission for a man, and being rich is their life dream, because wealth is the only standard of success.

Well, is being rich the only way to make Chinese happy? Yes, it is, at least to most of them. Since 1980s, China’s economy policy had been reformed and the country was opening up to the world treading business; economic development was set as the main objective in the next many decades. After then China has been surprising the world day by day. The whole nation is busy working hard to create wealth.  That’s how this country has become the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rate averaging 10% in the past 30 years.

Young generation Chinese(80’s, 90’s) was born and grown at this very period while the scale of change grew bolder and everyone was making contributions to the reforms fueled production increase. Their parents (50’s, 60’s) experienced poverty, the three years of great famine, the Cultural Revolution; their childhood was actually worse than disaster. At the end of 1970s, Deng Xiaoping led China towards a market economy and opened China to foreign investment. It effectively improved the standard of living. Small number of 50’s and 60’s grabbed the chance and became very rich. They offered the best material benefits for their kids. At the meanwhile, the rest of 50’s,60’s were not reconciled to fall behind so they paid much more effort to catch up with. .They did their best to prevent their children experience the same miserable childhood like theirs. That makes money the No.1 Issue. However, the rest of things such as religion, belief, culture, virtue, education came to the next or been missed out.

Young boys with expensive DSLRs

You may be thinking how many people in the world is not money oriented nowadays, but seriously, there were college student sold their kidneys to buy Iphone4s in China. As a Chinese myself, I’m really worried about the future of my people. Well, my point is, the world is not just about money and luxury. I hope one day, they would give a pass on Armani, LV and Gucci, instead, get on a trip to enrich themselves or do something meaningful to make China a better place.



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