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The 100-yuan crisis lifestyle

Inside the world's third-largest economy and the world's largest online community of 298 million Internet users, the global financial crisis has set young Chinese talking about a drastic lifestyle change. Reshma Patil reports.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2009 01:34 IST
Reshma Patil

Could you, a professional living in an Indian metro, cut your expenses to about Rs 100 per day?

Inside the world's third-largest economy and the world's largest online community of 298 million Internet users, the global financial crisis has set young Chinese talking about a drastic lifestyle change.

The trendsetter is a business management major in Beijing called Wang Hao, 24, who blogs about living on 100 yuan (about Rs 720) a week. The amount is slightly above the maximum daily wage of a construction worker in a Chinese boomtown. Wang told HT he used to spend 100 yuan on one meal until he started the campaign last June.

As an Indian vegetarian posted in Beijing — China’s costliest city for expats —this correspondent would not last long on the budget.

As I wrote this column, I mulled over the 72 yuan (about Rs 516) I had guiltily paid for a rushed takeaway lunch — just like many Chinese in my apartment cum office complex — on coffee, a plastic glass of packaged fruit, and an insipid tomato cheese roll from Starbucks.

For about 100 yuan, I could buy dinner at an upmarket Indian restaurant if I was careful to order just soup, rice or rotis, and one vegetarian curry.

Wang used to spend his entire income of 5,000-6,000 yuan a month (about Rs 35,000-42,000), with a home loan swallowing half the salary. Then he started cycling to office, walking to lunch at cheap eateries, eating steamed dumplings instead of pizzas and cooking Chinese dinners to live on 20 yuan a day.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment,’’ Wang told HT, referring to about 70,000 people reportedly following his online forum. “I want to inspire people to manage their money and save during the financial crisis.’’

‘Can you live on 100 yuan a week?’ said a feature on Wang’s campaign, on the website of China Radio International this month.

The website Wang works for is planning a prize worth 4,000 yuan (about Rs 28,000) for bloggers who post the best 100-yuan management plan. The campaign has about two lakh hits so far.

Even traditional Chinese families that splurge on reunion dinners worth thousands of yuan during the spring festival starting January 26, will shift lifestyles this year.

On Thursday, a China Daily report listed festival price cuts in restaurants nationwide. The headline: Preserving tradition in lean times’. Meanwhile, the government wants the Chinese to spend to save their economy.