“For Chinese, this is something like a dream,” said Tian, a 26-year-old graphic designer, as Hamburger, his English sheepdog, barked for attention. “Americans know how to live the good life.”
Welcome to the Chinese capital’s first RV park, where visitors can plant their own campers for a few days or rent a stationary model — all made in the U.S.A. — for a night of American-inspired R&R.
Having acquired many of the trappings of American consumer life, from iPhones to Buicks to closets full of Nikes and Coach bags, upwardly mobile Chinese are increasingly setting their sights on the “fang che,” or house vehicle, as they are known in Mandarin.
Although they first began appearing on domestic movie sets more than a decade ago, RV’s have only become widely available in the last three years, with more than 10,000 now rumbling along Chinese highways, according to the website 21RV.com. Distributors of European- and American-made campers say their products are selling out as soon as they hit the showroom floor. In August, at the third annual RV exhibition in Beijing, more than 500 vehicles were purchased during the four-day event, with an average sale price 300,000 renminbi, or $50,000. Industry analysts predict that sales will reach 800,000 within a decade.
“The market is erupting like a volcano,” said Wang Xudong, the deputy secretary of the China RV and Camping Association, speaking by phone as he drove a two-bed Chinese-made Great Wall camper through a desolate stretch of Inner Mongolia, his wife, mother-in-law and two kids clambering around in the back.
The New York Times reported that recreational vehicles might have middle-brow associations in the United States — the domain of retirees on perpetual holiday and methamphetamine cooks — but here in China they are seen as an upholstered magic carpet, toilet included, that provides an escape from urban congestion and tourist sites that are invariably mobbed on weekends.
“They symbolize freedom and luxury,” said Fang Liping, an English teacher, who was sharing a rented Wolf Pack-brand RV with three generations of family this month during Golden Week, the state-mandated holiday when millions of Chinese take to the road, causing colossal traffic jams and the occasional riot.