For the past couple of decades China has shown an uncanny ability to take things from the West and make them more cheaply. But while this may work for toasters and microwave ovens, it’s harder to achieve the same level of success with a Royal Wedding.
But that seems to have been the goal of Wang Xueqian, a bridegroom from Nanjing. On April 18 he held a Royal Wedding-themed ceremony, reports the Associated Press, featuring a horse-drawn carriage, as well as ‘guards’ in Beefeater hats.
Unlike the real event, it didn’t all go to plan. In a practice unfamiliar to the House of Windsor, Chinese firecrackers were also supplied. But they went off prematurely, causing the horse drawing the bride’s carriage to bolt.
Still, you can’t expect perfect choreography for a ceremony that cost just Rmb50,000 ($7,600) – a fraction of the $33 million price tag of the London equivalent.
Britain’s Sky News has also reported that – only 36 hours after Kate’s big day – a replica of her bridal dress had been produced for a Chinese bride by a company in Suzhou (known nationally for its 1,200 factories devoted to producing matrimonial gowns). The cost? Just $333 (including ivory tulle veil).
No surprise then that the real royal betrothal had already earned wide media attention across China. Most of last Saturday’s front pages carried pictures of the royal couple kissing on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The Southern Metropolis Daily ran the headline “Wedding of the Century”, with the Information Times going for “Prince marries Cinderella”.
Commentary on the event was generally positive. According to influential Phoenix TV, the size of the 2 billion viewing audience proved no other monarchy could compare with the British royal family (adding, rather pointedly, that a Japanese royal wedding wouldn’t get anything close). Instead it was full of praise, even seeing global benefit. “Since January there has been so much bad news; disasters, war, many economies in bad shape,” the channel reflected. “But this wedding brings a happy time for the world, even for just a moment.”
The Guangzhou Daily agreed that the royal family was a unique asset that helped promote the “brand of the UK”. Marriage to Kate Middleton, a beautiful bride lacking aristocratic blood, gave the event an even more positive dimension for many Chinese. Charles Zhang, CEO of Sohu, wrote on his blog that he felt “a real fairytale is happening”. The combination of glamour (that McQueen dress by Sarah Burton) and all the pomp evidently resonated with China’s new rich (WiC’s predicted beneficiaries: Burberry and Bond Street).
Of course, it wasn’t all flattering. Sanlian Weekly carped at the fairytale analogy, claiming a real Cinderella wouldn’t have figured in Prince William’s social milieu. It was Middleton family wealth that paid for trips to Kenya, skiing in Switzerland and drinking in expensive clubs in London that ensured they could court.
CCTV’s financial commentator Rui Chenggang also failed to see the romance, arguing that the ceremony was long, dull and a waste of taxpayer money. Besides, Princess Diana’s life proved there were no fairytales, Rui thought.
But back to Phoenix TV for a final assessment, albeit a more geopolitical one. The Royal Wedding is a reminder, it thought, of the importance of soft power. “The UK’s most glorious days are past,” Phoenix opined, “but it’s soft power that helps maintain Britain’s position in the world as a ‘big’ nation.”
Nice dress, shame about the deficit, seems to just about sum it up.
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