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不知风险来临的中国中产阶级
Of class and caravan parks

2020-9-2 13:00| 发布者: 岁月如歌| 查看: 4191| 评论: 0

摘要: Chinese economy is collapsing. We all know that right? All of us except about a billion Chinese, many of whom are out enjoying themselves like there’s no dire tomorrow.At just about the time that the ...
Of class and caravan parks
Chinese economy is collapsing. We all know that right? All of us except about a billion Chinese, many of whom are out enjoying themselves like there’s no dire tomorrow.

At just about the time that the west recently awakened from its summer market torpor to get into a right panic about Chinese growth, Liang Lulu and her friends were taking a passel of kids out for a night at a Chinese caravan park — just for the sheer fun of being a member of the nouveau middle class in China.

The kids — for whom the gruelling school year starts on Tuesday — were darting in and out of the caravans at the Chongming Dongping Forest Park, about an hour outside Shanghai. And the mums were having a blast taking selfies of all the merriment. It’s enough to make one wonder why they were not inside watching grim prognostications about the Chinese economy, on the caravan’s flatscreen television. Instead, they were doing what China’s State Council, or cabinet, recently decreed they should do lots more of: taking time off to spend money and boost the domestic economy.

On August 11, for example, the State Council announced that it wanted employers to give Chinese workers half a day off every Friday in the summertime, so that they could do things like caravanning. That’s hardly a classic Chinese response to impending destitution: work less. But that’s the point. China aims to boost its economy not by making more exportable widgets but by persuading its citizens to spend more on things such as tourism and relaxation, hoping that will take up the economic slack, in the new, less manufacturing-dependent China. So, in good old authoritarian style, the mandarins have decreed that the country needs more caravan parks, ski resorts, cruise terminals — and 57,000 new or renovated toilets at tourist attractions.

In fact, toilets are a bit of a focus here, too: April Pan, 12, even manages to tear herself away from afternoon TV just to wax lyrical about the loo and its adjacent compact bath. April has come to Chongming for her first recreational-vehicle experience, with her father and five-year brother — with whom she will share the mini bunk beds. Chen Lina is at the park with husband, daughter and granny (a classic combination in China’s RV world). Like everyone else we met at the park, they are RV newbies: “I never knew there was a bathroom inside,” says April, who says the loo is her “favourite room”.

RVs don’t come cheap, though. Buying one can easily cost half a million renminbi ($78,000) or more, and even one night’s rental at Chongming on a weekend — the park’s 90 stationary caravans are mostly full on summer weekends — can cost Rmb900 or more, as much as a luxury hotel room (without the joys of a chemical toilet). And they don’t even have the facilities much beloved of overseas caravan fanatics: there was no cooker in the ones we visited. On the other hand, one of the joys of stationary RV camping — not a pastime that’s much of a hit in the west, where RV campers usually prefer self-drive — is that you don’t have to worry about where to dump the contents of the loo.

As an RV fanatic myself, the first question I asked at Chongming was: where is the park’s “dump station”. The reception staff looked blank: no one had ever asked that before. RV enthusiast Zhou Yaming explains why: “I use the RV bathroom only when I have no other choice, or dump the waste in a petrol station toilet.” A salesman at the Centech RVing Club, Wang Zhiqiang, said most clients just dump it any old where.

I did that recently in New Zealand and a national park warden (quite rightly) made me feel like a sociopath. But in China, it seems, that simply is not an issue. Doubtless, the State Council will see fit to publish a decree about that too — hopefully before too much RV waste finds its way into China’s already too-fragrant rivers.

Mr Wang says China’s recent stock market misfortunes could mean some clients might not have the liquidity right now to fork out Rmb500,000 in cash for a custom-made RV. But nobody thinks this market is going anywhere but way, way up in the near term. It seems somebody forgot to tell the RV enthusiasts that there’s an economic collapse around the corner.

patti.waldmeir@ft.com

中国经济行将崩溃。所有人都清楚地知道这一点,对吧?所有人都知道,除了约10亿中国人以外——他们中许多人正在外面开心地游玩,就好像悲惨的明天不会到来一样。

近来,西方从夏季的市场麻木中苏醒过来,感到了对中国增长的彻底恐慌。就在大约此时,梁露露和朋友们正带着一群孩子在中国一处房车营地游玩过夜——纯粹是为了享受作为中国新兴中产阶层一员的乐趣。

9月1日,紧张的新学年就开始了。而此时,在距离上海市约1小时车程的崇明东平国家森林公园里,这些孩子正在房车中跑进跑出。他们的妈妈们也在尽情狂欢。这足以让人好奇,她们为何不是正在房车里的平板电视上观看有关中国经济前景黯淡的报道,而是在以休假消费的方式提振中国国内经济(按照中国国务院(State Council)近来出台的新政策,这种行为多多益善)?

比如,中国国务院8月11日宣布,鼓励用人单位在夏季每个周五给员工放半天假,以便员工外出游玩,比如在房车中度假。对于即将到来的穷困,减少工作绝不是中国人的经典对策。但新政策找对了路子。中国打算提振经济,但途径不是生产更多可出口的东西,而是劝服民众在旅游和休闲等活动上增加消费,在中国经济向不那么依赖制造业的新模式转型之际,寄望于消费能够代替旧的增长引擎支撑起经济的景气。所以,中国高级官员通过相当老套的威权方式下达命令称,中国需要更多的房车营地、滑雪度假村和邮轮游艇码头,需要在旅游景点新建或翻新共计5.7万个卫生间。

事实上,卫生间也是房车营地的一个关注焦点:12岁的April Pan,甚至强迫自己从下午电视节目前走开,对洗手间和旁边的紧凑型浴室大加赞叹。这是April第一次体验房车,她是跟父亲和5岁的弟弟一起来的,他们睡在小小的上下铺上。陈丽娜是跟她丈夫、女儿和孩子的奶奶一起来的(在中国的房车营地里,带着老人和孩子一起来的家庭很常见)。就像我们在营地里遇到的所有人一样,他们也是第一次体验房车。April说,“我原来根本不知道里面还有浴室”,她还说,那个卫生间是她“最喜欢的房间”。

不过,体验房车并不便宜。一辆房车的价格可能随随便便就达到或超过50万元人民币(约合7.8万美元),就连周末在崇明东平森林公园里租住一晚可能也要花900元人民币或更多(在夏季的周末,营地里90辆非移动式房车几乎都住满了),跟豪华酒店客房价格相当(不过住酒店就体验不了使用化学制剂处理排泄物的化学厕所了)。这些房车里甚至没有海外房车爱好者特别青睐的设施——炊具(我们参观的那辆就没有)。另一方面,非移动式房车露营——这在西方并非一种热门休闲活动,西方人通常更喜欢自驾房车露营——的乐事之一,是你不必担心去哪里倒掉厕所污秽物。

作为一名房车迷,我在崇明公园里问的第一个问题是:公园的“倾倒站”在哪。接待人员看起来一脸茫然:以前没人问过这个问题。房车爱好者周亚明解释称:“我只有在别无选择时才会使用房车的卫生间,或者在加油站的卫生间倒掉废物。”中天行旅行房车俱乐部(Centech RVing Club)的销售王志强称,多数客户就随便找个地方倾倒废物。

最近我曾在新西兰干过这事,一名国家公园的管理员(十分正确地)让我感觉自己毫无公德心。但是在中国,这似乎根本不是问题。毫无疑问,中国国务院肯定会觉得也应该就这个问题出台相关法规——希望这样的规定能赶在太多的房车废物流入中国早已异常“芬芳”的河流之前出台。

王志强称,中国最近的股灾可能意味着,一些客户眼下或许没有足够资金,无法拿出50万元人民币的现金来购买一辆定制房车了。但是,没人认为这个市场在短期内不会一路走高。似乎有人忘了告诉房车爱好者经济崩溃就在眼前。

译者/何黎


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