Deng Xiaoping has taken his lot of credit for China's reform and opening, but let's not forget to laud the man for coming up with the most ingeniously vague term in communist history: socialism with Chinese characteristics. It's the phrase that just keeps giving. Today we would have to say some of those characteristics include Vacheron wristwatches and multimillion-dollar villas. Who would have guessed?
Maybe this is why the central government stepped in this week with a ban on TV advertisements that promote big-ticket watches and gold coins as “gifts for leaders.” This is a good idea. With the party looking so un-communist these days, no one wants Lenin, Mao or Ho Chi Minh rolling around in their display cases - or worse. That would be scary as hell.
Leaders need to tone it down a bit. Whatever happened to those little red envelopes stuffed with cash? Instead of Ferrari, go with Audi. And tint those windows before you play sex games on the freeway.
But let's not go nuts about this. Everyone knows that officials have helped keep property prices high. What's going to happen to the market if leaders can't buy 40 apartments in their favorite Chinese city? And what about upscale restaurants? Business is already tumbling at five-star hotels as new General Secretary Xi Jinping threatens to crackdown on corruption and wasteful public spending.
Luxury brands could do more to adopt socialist characteristics. How about a Chanel “sickle and hammer” line of bags, or a diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe Mao Zedong pocket watch? Meanwhile, leaders should really go with the flow – the outward flow of cash, that is – and make sure they're sipping a Mai Tai on a beach in Hawaii when the Commission for Discipline Inspection is knocking at the door of their humble Chinese abode.