Emperor Club Memberships and Outlaw Helicopters: China’s Plutocrats Look for Ways to Spend Money

Why must the Communist system make things so difficult for China’s more fortunate citizens? Earlier this week, the authorities shut down a planned

social club

in the Forbidden City, the old imperial palace complex at the heart of Beijing, at which memberships reportedly cost 1 million RMB, or more than $150,000. According to the English-language Global Times, the enterprise was the work of a

rogue branch

of the bureaucracy overseeing the complex:

The imperial palace-turned-museum said on its official Tencent microblog Monday that turning the Jianfu Palace into a club was an unauthorized move taken by the Forbidden City Cultural Development Company (FCCDC), the museum’s subsidiary, and the action had been stopped.

FCCDC was set up in 2005 by the Beijing Forbidden City Culture Service Center, a subsidiary of the Forbidden City, and Hong Kong Yicheng Investment Co, according to the museum microblog.


In other bureaucratic news, the New York Times reported that “a minuscule group of wealthy Chinese” have taken to

flying around illegally

in their private helicopters and airplanes, in defiance of the Chinese military’s strict airspace regulations.

Several have been mistaken for UFOs while aloft over major cities, including a helicopter pilot whose evening excursion last July over the airport in Hangzhou, north of Wenzhou, tied up a score of commercial jets on the ground. A rich pilot in Dongguan, a south China metropolis, made national headlines in 2006 when he used his helicopter to pursue and subdue thieves who had stolen his luxury car.

Making authorized flights, the Times reported, is more trouble than it’s worth:

Private aircraft occupy the lowest rung of the flight ladder….[A]nyone seeking to fly to another airstrip must negotiate a bureaucratic thicket, filing flight plans with the military and China’s civil aviation agency not only at the departure point, but at the arrival point and all waypoints in between.

Mr. Cao [Wei], the Beijing flight company owner, said the state meteorological agency also must be consulted. Within a few days — or a week, or 10 days, depending on whom one believes — the authorities will respond with an okay. Or not.

So the wealthy fliers are forced to sneak around—”like secret love,” a Wenzhou man with three helicopters told the Times.