Andy Guo, an 18-year-old Chinese immigrant, loves driving his red Lamborghini Huracan. He does not love having to share the car with his twin brother, Anky.
“There’s a lot of conflict,” Andy Guo said, as a crowd of admirers gazed at the vehicle and its vanity license plate, “CTGRY 5,” short for the most catastrophic type of hurricane.
The C$360,000 (US$281,600) car was a gift last year from their father, who travels back and forth between Vancouver and China’s Shanxi Province and made his fortune in coal, said Andy Guo, an economics major at the University of British Columbia.
China’s rapid economic rise has turned peasants into billionaires. Many wealthy Chinese are increasingly eager to stow their families — and their riches — in the West, where rule of law, clean air and good schools offer peace of mind, especially for those looking to escape scrutiny from the Chinese Communist Party and an anticorruption campaign that has sent hundreds of rich and powerful people to jail.
With its relatively weak currency and welcoming immigration policies, Canada has become a top destination for China’s “1 percenters.”
According to Canadian government figures, from 2005 to 2012, at least 37,000 Chinese millionaires took advantage of a now-defunct immigrant investor program to become permanent residents of British Columbia, the province that includes Vancouver.
The metropolitan area of 2.3 million is home to increasing numbers of ethnic-Chinese residents, who made up more than 18 percent of the population in 2011, up from less than 7 percent in 1981, according to government figures.
To the newcomers for whom money seems to be no object, the next purchase after a house is usually a car, and then a few more.
A large number of luxury car dealerships there employ Chinese staff, a testament to the spending power of the city’s newest residents. Last year, there were 2,500 cars worth more than US$150,000 registered in metropolitan Vancouver, up from 1,300 in 2009, according to the Insurance Corp of British Columbia.
Many of Vancouver’s young supercar owners are known as fuerdai (富二代), a Mandarin expression, akin to trust-fund kids, that means “rich second generation.” In China, where super-rich people are widely criticized as being corrupt and materialistic, the term provokes a mix of scorn and envy.
The fuerdai have brought their passion for extravagance to Vancouver. White Lamborghinis are popular among young Chinese women; the men often turn in their leased supercars after a few months for a newer, cooler status symbol.
On a recent evening, an overwhelmingly Chinese crowd of young adults had gathered at an invitation-only Rolls-Royce event to see a new black-and-red Dawn convertible, base price US$402,000. It is the only such car in North America.
Among the curious was Jin Qiao, 20, a baby-faced art student who moved to Vancouver from Beijing six years ago with his mother. During the week, Jin drives one of two Mercedes-Benz SUVs, which he said were better suited for the rigors of daily life.
However, his most prized possession is a US$600,000 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster Galaxy.
Jin, a lanky design major who favors Fendi clothing and gold sneakers, extolled the virtues of exotic cars and was quick to dismiss those who criticized supercar aficionados as ostentatious.
“There are so many rich people in Vancouver, so what’s the point of showing off?” he said.
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