Chinese Media Giants In War Of Words Over Luxury Consumption

Media Mogul Hong Huang And TV Anchor Rui Chenggang Duke It Out Online

Rui Chenggang criticized about luxury goods (Image: ifeng.com)

Rui Chenggang’s latest target is luxury consumption (Image: ifeng.com)

Recently, Rui Chenggang, a regular publicity stunt instigator and anchor of the prime-time television CCTV (China Central Television) program BizChina, posted a series of messages on his Sina Weibo haranguing major global luxury brands and China’s current level of luxury consumption. In a blistering attack on Hermès’ popularity in China, Rui wrote, “The Hermès Birkin handbag (for women) and leather ‘H’ belt (for men) are strong weapons for China’s nouveau riche and socialites to show off their wealth. However, Hermès handbags are just used by a few middle-age women in Europe and the U.S.” Rui’s critiques kicked off an instant flame-war among Rui’s 1.8 million Weibo followers, one that quickly spread throughout the Chinese blogosphere.

Soon after his attack on the perceptions of Hermès in China versus Western countries, Rui added fuel to the fire with a questionnaire entitled “The Ten Most Vulgar Luxury Brands”. Coming in first on Rui’s questionnaire was Louis Vuitton, with 95 percent of the vote, followed by Gucci (85 percent), Rolex (85 percent), Chanel (80 percent), Prada (80 percent), Armani (75 percent), Dior (70 percent), Hermès (65 percent), Dolce & Gabbana (60 percent) and BMW (50 percent). Rui concluded his poll by referring to these brands as “the most effective weapons to show off one’s wealth”.

Rui Chenggang's Sina Weibo

Rui Chenggang’s Sina Weibo

In response to Rui’s comments, some netizens commented that they were curious what brands Rui Chenggang patronizes, mentioning the irony if Rui himself was an avid buyer of some of these so-called “vulgar” brands. Along with the growing chorus of skepticism among netizens about Rui’s impartiality on the issue, several of China’s media giants soon stepped into the conversation to put in their two cents.

As popular iLook publisher and “made in China” fashion proponent Hong Huang was quick to point out, “Rui’s remarks on luxury consumption have shown his ignorance about the luxury industry.” As Hong noted, “I met Rui Chenggang at an event for the auto brand Jaguar, and at that time he didn’t even have any personal opinion, good or bad, about luxury goods. So his recent critiques on high-end goods came as a surprise to me.” Adding what many have suspected when Rui previously turned his ire towards targets like Starbucks, Hong added, “I think it might just be about personal promotion.”

Concluded Hong, “As a journalist, Rui isn’t even qualified to make these kinds of off-the-cuff remarks, and I don’t think his criticism will bother Hermès in the least”.

Sun Yafei, CEO the high-end online retailer 5LUX.com, argued that Rui’s criticism isn’t borne out by any actual data, and that facts about a brand’s consumer base can only really be revealed by the brand itself. Added Sun, Rui Chenggang is off-base in his attack on Hermès, as the classic Hermès silk scarf is extremely popular among younger consumers in Europe and the U.S.

While Rui’s observation that luxury buyers outside of China are relatively older than their Chinese counterparts is true, as the World Luxury Association recently reported that 73 percent of Chinese luxury consumers are under the age of 45, compared to only 28 percent in Great Britain, his implication that this age differential somehow means luxury brands are taking advantage of Chinese consumers rings hollow.

Much like Rui’s antics at the G20 Summit in Seoul last year, when he cut in after U.S. President Barack Obama asked to field a question from a Korean reporter, declaring, “I’m actually Chinese but I think I get to represent the entire Asia”, Rui’s latest anti-luxury brand salvo appears to be a case of his trademark self-aggrandizement more than anything else.

 

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Culture, Fashion