China's infamous 'Material Girl' serves as an example to youth

Updated: 2014-08-06 01:54

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA)

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China's icon of notoriety — Guo "Material Girl" Meimei — is making headlines again, but this time from behind bars.

In a video released on Monday on China's Central Television, the 23 year old, dressed in an orange prison vest, confessed that she had fabricated her association with the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) in 2011 out of vanity, claims that triggered public outrage and swirled into an unprecedented credibility crisis for the nation's biggest charity organization and still plagues them.

China's infamous 'Material Girl' serves as an example to youth

Guo also admitted that she had been investigated for being deeply involved in illegal gambling; spreading rumors about incurring a debt of $42 million while gambling in Macau; and committing prostitution with men across the country to collect large sums of money.

On July 10, Guo was detained for allegedly operating an illegal gambling venue for the World Cup.

Hopefully, Guo's downfall will serve as an example for those Chinese, especially the young generation, who have lost their way in pursuit of wealth and extravagance, and help society restore a healthy and pure value system.

As American pop singer Madonna sang in her big hit from the 1984: "We are living in a material world and I am a material girl", some Chinese nowadays seem enslaved by distorted values of physical interests, world outlook and opinions on life as the nation advances rapidly into the world's second largest economy.

Worship of money has become so prevalent that remarks like: "I'd rather cry in the BMW (of a rich man) than laugh on a bicycle (when seeking Mr. Right)" — which came from a woman contestant on a popular TV matchmaking program — are deemed normal and reasonable.

Gold-diggers like Guo Meimei are emerging in an endless stream and they all seem to believe money is everything and are prepared to do anything to grab sudden wealth.

Guo first got attention in cyberspace in 2011 when she used social media to post a string of photos flaunting her lavish lifestyle — sipping champagne in business class or riding in a Maserati. On her Sina Weibo account she identified herself as the "commercial general manager" of the RCSC, and caused a firestorm among Chinese netizens, who assumed she had embezzled funds from the charity to fund her opulent lifestyle.

Believing Guo actually owned luxury sports cars, an apartment in Beijing's central business district and high-scale purses and bags at $10,000 each, people were alarmed at how donations were being used at the country's State-run charitable organizations, which were already struggling to regain public trust after several other scandals unrelated to Guo.

Although the RCSC issued several statements denying any connection with Guo, donations to the organization plunged by 24 percent in 2012, according to the China Charity and Donation Information Center.

In her videotaped confession aired on Monday, Guo also expressed remorse for having damaged the reputation of the Red Cross and denied having any connection with the organization.

"None of my relatives or friends, including my ex-boyfriend, was a staff member of the RCSC. I didn't know anyone from the Red Cross," she said. "Because of my own vanity, I made a huge mistake. I would like to offer my deep apologies to the Red Cross and even deeper apologies to the public and my deepest apologies to the people who have not been rescued."

Although it has taken three years for Guo Meimei to confess and repent for her wrongdoings, the unpleasant episode should serve as an alarm signal and provide guidance for young men and women in China in their pursuit of fame and fortune, said Zhang Yiwu, professor of Chinese Literature and director of the Center of Cultural Resource Research at Peking University. "Don't go astray, there is no shortcut to becoming rich and successful."

For the Red Cross, Guo's detention might mean a beginning of a rebuilding of public trust. "So from this moment on, forget about her (Guo Meimei) and put the limited energy and resources into this disaster (the Yunnan earthquake). People hit by the earthquake will need supplies immediately," said RCSC on its official Sina Weibo account on Monday, referring to the6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern China's Yunnan province on Aug 3 leaving at least 398 dead.

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com.

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