|Man Without Qualities|
Sunday, February 02, 2003
Faux Los Angeles in China
"I liked it immediately — it is just like a house in California," exulted Nasha Wei, a former army doctor turned businesswoman, sitting on a white suede banquette in the four-bedroom home in Orange County (China) she moved into this year.
"Especially in Beijing, it's a kind of fashion — and if you don't chose a Western concept right now you're really out of it," said Victor Yuan, whose Horizon Market Research advises developers on how to set their buildings apart. In surveys, his company found that 70 percent of developers were emphasizing Western style as a marketing tool. ...
[A]t Orange County ... developers have promised clients the real deal — so long as they can afford the minimum half million-dollar price tag.
Houses are replicas of Southern California homes, designed by Southern California architects, with model homes decorated by Los Angeles interior designers. The basement pool tables are American. The appliances are imported. The tiles, wood siding and wall sconces are from the United States, too.
Weighdoon Yang, vice president of SinoCEA, the real estate development company that owns both Orange County and Watermark-Longbeach, showed off a yellow wood French country estate modeled, he said, on Coto de Caza. In 1999, he and his partner, Zhang Bo, traveled to California to research homes, coming back with a concept and a deal with a Newport Beach architect. ...
It is clear that their offering has tapped into a well of desire. Though an hour out of Beijing, all of the homes in Orange County, or Ju Jun in Chinese, were sold within a month. In this mix of free-standing tudor and stucco three- and four-bedroom homes, children play in the street and sport utility vehicles sit comfortably in driveways.
Homes in the more upmarket and more recently completed Watermark-Longbeach section of the compound cost $1.5 million and up, ranging from yellow French country estates to Spanish stucco castles, each model home a pumped-up version of the American dream.
Landscaped backyards sport barbecues, fountains and kidney-shaped pools. Girls' rooms are decorated with beach sets from Old Navy. Even though fire trucks are nonexistent here in the Chinese countryside, the toddler's room in one home is furnished in a fire engine theme.
What is on sale here is not just a dwelling but a dream — one that is just a fantasy for most Chinese, who make well under $500 a month. As in the case of its namesake, Orange County (China) is mostly a haven for conservative lawyers, businesspeople and celebrities, looking for a peaceful place to rear children.
"As soon as I saw the place I was very happy," Ms. Liang said. "In appearances, it's totally unlike other Chinese compounds, but more than that, we have the river to the south and the mountains to the north. The feng shui is excellent ..."
The compound's residents are all Chinese ...
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