Chinese millennials ‘falling out of cars’ in search of internet fame

‘Falling stars’ challenge attracts Chinese millennials hoping to go viral and a mocking response from more down-to-earth citizens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 9:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 1:40pm

Two Chinese women stopped their car on a pedestrian crossing in a busy city centre and, as they got out, one of them dropped her Gucci handbag, a pair of red-soled, high-heeled shoes, and an assortment of make-up on the street, spreading them around for effect.

She then lay face down, with her legs still inside the car, as her friend began to shoot video of her “fall”.

That was on Monday. On Wednesday, according to the Taizhou internet police force, the women, both surnamed Chen, were arrested for disrupting traffic and fined 150 yuan (US$21) and 10 yuan.

The women, from China’s eastern Zhejiang province, were taking part in the latest viral internet “falling stars” challenge in the hope of gaining more followers on the live streaming platform Tik Tok.

Known literally as the “flaunt your wealth” challenge in Mandarin, the trend originated in Russia and has recently taken off in China, where rich Chinese millennials are increasingly willing to spend on luxury goods, and letting the world know that they can.

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In the falling stars challenge, “influencers” post pictures of themselves lying face down, as if they have tripped while getting out of sports cars and private jets, spilling designer shoes, bags and even wads of cash on the street.

Another woman who “fell” out of her Aston Martin onto a Shanghai pavement was fined 200 yuan (US$29), according to the city’s traffic police department.

The falling stars challenge has spawned a series of satirical memes making fun of rich kids, with apparent Chinese soldiers, government staff, firefighters and students lying face down surrounded by service certificates, firefighting equipment and scattered documents.

The challenge highlights the growing number of wealthy Chinese and the equally rapidly widening wealth gap, and the resulting social tensions.

Last year Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report predicted that the number of millionaires in China would increase to 2.7 million by 2022.

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The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, increased to 0.465 last year. A Gini coefficient higher than 0.4 is a sign of severe income inequality, according to the United Nations.

This gap tends to spark social discontent and conflict. Last week a man in eastern China drew outrage from parents when he dropped his son off at his school in a Ferrari.

The falling stars challenge comes on the heels of another viral challenge, the Drake-inspired In My Feelings challenge, in which people jumped out of slow-moving cars and danced alongside the vehicle before hopping back in.

The viral trend, also known as the Kiki Challenge, led to videos of people falling on roads and even getting hit by oncoming vehicles.