Nearly three years after it reared its head with China’s nouveau riche iPhone users, tuhao gold is back in a big and blinding way, this time as the shade of paint for Hangzhou-based “Cool Qi” bikes.
Cool Qi is the latest company to enter China’s burgeoning bike-sharing scene, and with a prism of colored bikes already on the city streets, it decided to do so in a way that passersby couldn’t ignore: its fleet of bikes are a shiny, sun-reflecting, gold.
The term tuhao gold was once used by netizens to describe the champagne-like tone of Apple’s US$4,300 18-karat gold iPhone 5s, as commentary on the tacky tastes of China’s newly wealthy consumers. It’s also a shade that has been used for cars in China, for those drivers who particularly care to show off their riches.
Unlike its pricey predecessors, the Cool Qi bikes aren’t much more luxurious compared to their bike-sharing competitors like Ofo and Mobike, at least when it comes to price—a 30-minute ride costs RMB 1.5. But the bikes do offer the added perk of a portable USB charger by China’s electronics giant Haier that can charge just about any phone on the go. Plus, the bike company’s name does come with some potential status-boosting branding—Cool Qi, when pronounced in Chinese, sounds a lot like “Gucci.”
The bikes are currently being trialed in Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen, according to local reports.
Whether or not the entire effort is a jab at the tuhao culture or simply a gaudy attempt to stand out from the crowd, the bikes have already been drawing criticism online. Shanghaiist reported that netizens have not only criticized Cool Qi’s aesthetic, but questioned the potential hazard the shiny bikes pose for more discerning drivers.