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I had to tell him they were for women, not men.

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For others, a better way to blow money fast is to go overseas. A decade ago, most Chinese never ventured abroad as tourists because the state issued passports only to a select few. Getting permission for anything other than studying at Harvard or inking a joint-venture deal was nearly impossible. Today, though, Chinese are the fastest-growing bloc of travelers in the world.

By , million Chinese are expected to go globe trotting. Mainlanders have already become Thailand's most numerous tourists and they'll soon be tops in Australia too. Wang Shi likes the attention he receives abroad. The head of China Vanke, a property development company in Shenzhen, was delighted last month when he saw Munich Airport now has signs in Chinese to help visitors like him through customs. At a five-star hotel in Tokyo, room service offered him a Chinese breakfast complete with rice gruel and soybean milk.

But for Wang, 51, going abroad was important for another reason: he was able to benchmark himself against other monied people. He noticed that Chinese tourists liked to travel together in nervous clumps led by a fussy tour guide. Westerners, he concluded, traveled alone or in couples. And they didn't just dutifully walk around cities or hit the gift shops. They bungee jumped, skied, parachuted. Inspired, the property magnate went home and decided to become a mountain man. Like many of China's rich, he had spent so many years working that now all he wanted to do was play. Almost every weekend, he takes a few buddies paragliding over the hills surrounding Shenzhen.

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The club now has more than members, who gather each year for a weekend of exertion followed by a party teeming with so many connected people that China's financial press considers it the event of the year. Not surprisingly, China's wealthiest citizens indulge their kids with almost as much zeal as they indulge themselves. Zhou Zhiqin, a pharmaceutical supplier, lavishes attention on her "Little Emperor," a year-old son who enjoys weekly horseback-riding lessons and unlimited access to the newest computer games.

Although he's a teenager, her son sleeps in the same room as a maid, lest he kick off his covers in the middle of the night and catch cold. For a teen, Zhou's son puts up fairly patiently with his mother's fussing over his hair and clothes.

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But more and more, he wants to hang out with his buddies, and he talks about how great it will be to get an SUV and cruise around on his own. When her son announces this, you can almost hear Zhou's mental note: SUV for son when he turns Letting go won't be easy for Zhou.

To make matters worse, her husband spends most weekends at a golf course, schmoozing with business colleagues and puffing on Dunhill cigars in the clubhouse. To ease the loneliness, Zhou began trying to occupy herself with games of mah-jongg or by going on house-hunting jaunts with friends who, like her, buy up historic Shanghai homes and renovate them in whatever style they fancy at that moment: baroque, Roman, Swedish modern.

When those diversions didn't work, she tried getting a pet, the current favored accessory of China's rich. The pet store offered dozens of pedigreed animals, including rare Bur-mese cats, poodles with ears dyed fluorescent colors and house pigs that grow no bigger than a beagle.

But even the pooch wasn't enough, so Zhou is now pregnant with her second child. Much of China may be bound by a one-child policy, but wealthy couples can easily pay the hefty fines for overprocreating. For centuries, Shaohui, a tiny hamlet in China's prosperous Fujian province, made its money off succulent mangoes and dragon-eye trees.

No longer.

Textile mills have transformed the region's rolling hills, and the rich have invaded too, building sprawling homes throughout the countryside. Just inside Shaohui, Wendie Xu's one-story bungalow has been replaced by a five-story mansion, courtesy of her husband's success as a cotton exporter. Her neighbours still live in a dirt-floor home. But inside Xu's palace, with its sweeping blue-tinted windows, you can't smell the mix of manure, coal and sewage that permeates lesser residences. Her family room boasts a massive chandelier, a built-in bar and a TV with 52 inches of viewing pleasure.

In the foyer is an immense fountain with garish lights and a metal sculpture dancing in the water. Then again, why should Derek Jeter care what the great, unwashed masses think? And why should St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols think twice about demanding the equivalent of the gross national product of a small Caribbean nation when negotiating his next contract? I once worked for a semi-delusional CEO who kept predicting a secular crisis between the haves and have nots. I don't think we'll be seeing an Egyptian or Libyan-type insurrection anytime soon in America.

But, I do think what we're seeing in Wisconsin and other states is an indirect backlash at the wretched excess of detached, uncaring and pampered superstars like Derek Jeter who think they deserve to live in mansions that would make King Louis XIV of France green with envy. Good for you, Lunch. It would be interesting if St. Jetersburg turned out to be a lemon and had all sorts of construction flaws, etc.

While I think it is obscene the amount of money some sports and entertainment figures earn, I also see nothing wrong with Jeter enjoying the fruits of his labor. I am not a proponent of conspicuous consumption to the extent of Jetersberg, but he does have the right to spend his money any way he wants to. Make no mistake about it: The group that has changed this culture so drastically and so rapidly were able to do so because they understood the PR game much, much better than the other side. Not only does Kenny know that greed is good, he also knows how to lob a PR missive out there to support this case.

Where will it end, Steve? With people like the Steinbrenner boys casually referencing socialism when public funds built their cash-making sport palaces, who knows? Florida is a mecca for athletes and former jocks.


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But where does Obiang get his money? Fitah, 32, Somalia Fitah has been a refugee for ten years but has only been in Brazil for a few months. After leaving his home country in due to the civil war, he went to South Africa, where he stayed until March He chose the latter. Afonso, 28, Congo Upstairs in one of the big bedrooms of the Scalabrinian Mission Afonso, a year-old migrant from Congo, explained how he came from Kinshasa in by boat, escaping from the violent conflicts raging in his own country.

He hired the service of smugglers and came on a cargo ship with a number of others. He paid for part of the trip by working on the ship. He was left in the coast of Santos, a city 55km away from Sao Paulo.

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He is now searching for a job. His grandfather was a chief priest of a secret society for whom it is a tradition to initiate the oldest son of the family when the former elder dies. He fled to stay with family in the interior of the country, but was kidnapped and held captive in the forest. One night he managed to escape to the city and met a woman from a Christian organization which provided airplane tickets so he could leave immediately for Brazil.

Jorge, 25, Guinea-Bissau Jorge is a trained engineer who came to Brazil two years ago, who is now selling counterfeit and smuggled clothes in a local market. His Brazilian girlfriend is now pregnant and he is waiting for a work permit in order to get a job as mason. He said that when Federal Police went to his home address to confirm he was living there - an essential step in the process of issuing a work visa to a migrant - his house mates thought they wanted to arrest him and denied he lived there.

It delayed his chance of getting a permit that would allow him a legal and better-remunerated job. The lack of trust in Brazilian law enforcement is a huge issue among refugees and migrants, many say that they rarely provide help or support, but instead only make their lives more difficult. He says migrants should be respected for having the courage to leave everything behind and restart from nothing. Discrimination and lack of jobs are an issue for Abu, so he says his plan now is to save money and go to Europe as soon as possible.

When he first arrived, he had money to stay in a hotel for seven days. After that, he met people who got him a job as a street vendor for contraband and traditional Senegalese clothes sewn in Brazil with African fabrics. Every time the police come and seize the goods he sells, it can take up to five months to recover the money lost. On the night we visit around 50 people were dancing and chanting traditional Senegalese songs.

Later they take a seat and discuss issues important to the community.

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Ibrahim, one of the group, has a talent for sewing fake Nike and Adidas logos to clothing in an improvised atelier nearby. Although he is a professional tailor and prefers to dedicate his time to his own original work, he says financial pressures meant he was forced to join the market of counterfeit designer-label clothing. On Rua Guaianazes there is a run-down mosque on the second floor of an old and degraded building, which is frequented by many African migrants. Outside, the smell of marijuana and cheap crack is inebriating.

Crowds gather on the streets in front of the packed bars, while different people ask us if we want cheap marihuana. The bar tender tells us it is a Nigerian bar, but that it is frequented by Africans of all nationalities. Among the offers of cheap marijuana, crack and cocaine, laughs, music and loud chat, you can barely hear to the imam's call. Rua Guaianazes is considered to be the heart of Cracolandia, a territory controlled by organized crime for more than a decade and now reportedly home to some African-led drug trafficking gangs.

There are dozens of galleries with local merchants, migrants and hawkers selling their wares, and crowds shouting and grabbing to sell counterfeit and contraband electronics late in the night. When we visited, a homeless old man was setting a campfire out of trash to heat himself on the corner, the people passing by aggressively yelling at him due to the black smoke his improvised urban survival mechanism was generating.

She arrived a year ago with two of her children, and also pregnant. She says that after the family of the Angolan president took over the market of smuggled goods in her country, her small import business started to crumble. Her husband and two more daughters are still there. She is currently unemployed, but happy that her young son is studying, although often he comes home complaining about racism at school.


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  • She opened the restaurant a year ago so that the African community in the Centro neighbourhood has a place to gather and eat food from their continent. The Mission provides housing, food, clothing, medication and facilities for migrants. They only receive a small amount of financial support from local government, but work to help migrants find a job so they can live independently.