Housing prices in China can make Manhattan seem attractive; prices for antiques and artworks (let alone antique works of art) have gone through the roof; the country is quickly becoming one of the largest markets for luxury goods.

In all of those notable cases, China simply seems odd.

Housing that costs several times the average monthly salary; antiques that may be relatively recent works but aren’t thought to be by the buyers, and even contemporary works of as-yet-undetermined long-term value; a country that is still developing, yet single-handedly rescues luxury brands – not to mention a nominally Communist country that often looks rather like Manchester at the time it invented early industrialization’s capitalism.

Looking at economic aspects can clarify things somewhat, but it is in cultural logic – which economic life is really a part of – that things make perfect sense. Or at least, as much sense as human behavior ever makes.

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