Only in China! Talking about the noveau riche

According to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese social media users were up in arms Thursday over the latest addition to China’s lineup of luxury cigarettes: an extremely high-end version of the Good Cat brand, which features a demure red feline stamped on a gold cigarette pack.  The price? As high as 5600 yuan a carton (US$890).

Government officials love them…

Panda cigarettes — the brand once favored by Deng Xiaoping — can cost as much as $107 a pack, compared with about $2 a pack for generic brands.

Such anger over government consumption of luxury cigarettes helps explain Weibo comments like this one: “How is 5600RMB ($890) a carton expensive?” one microblogger mused, “It’s bribery. In order to achieve your end, even 10,000RMB (US$1,600) a cartoon isn’t expensive.”

Money talks…

Good Cat cigarettes are manufactured by China Tobacco Shaanxi Industrial Co. Ltd., which is part of China National Tobacco Corp., the state-run cigarette company. And cigarettes are big business for Beijing: In 2010, tobacco taxes brought in $75 billion in tax receipts — that makes cigarette taxes the central government’s largest single source of revenue.

Aha! Now it makes sense…

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