China’s middle class: We’re being picked like leeks by the government

Date:  November 3, 2018
By: Serenitie Wang, CNN

Beijing, CNN (CNN)Spike Wang, a 29-year-old financial professional based in Shanghai, is struggling to live the Chinese dream.

Wang is one of millions of Chinese middle-class men and women who grew up in a roaring economy. Now, amid soaring rents and a plunging stock market, they are finding daily life increasingly difficult.

The past year has been especially tough.

Like many middle-class investors, Wang dumped most of his shares in Chinese stocks after his portfolio suffered a 40% loss in just two years.

Unable to afford a 37% rent increase, he left his old apartment in Beijing this year and moved to a cheaper apartment in Shanghai. But he still found the cost of living in China hard to handle.

“I can clearly feel that groceries are more expensive, especially in the second half of the year,” he said.

The problem of economic distress among Chinese citizens is so common that there is a buzzword on China’s cybersphere for people like Wang — “jiucai” or leeks.

“I’m a typical leek that is picked in the stock market, rental market and as a consumer,” said Wang.

Middle-class Chinese consumers call themselves “leeks,” the popular green vegetable used in a Chinese cuisine, to express their fears about the economy or financial issues online.

It’s a self-deprecating term implying they are being played for suckers, just faceless vegetables harvested by big companies and the government, especially amid the escalating US-China trade war and slowing economy.

Tongue-in-cheek reactions such as “the government is going to harvest the leeks again” or “we’re being picked like leeks” are common among members of the middle class.    [FULL  STORY]