New TV quiz show makes novel appeal
to China's obsession with getting rich
SHANGHAI (AP) - Who wants to be a millionaire? Pretty much
everyone in China, and Communist leaders are urging them on.
Now, the latest Chinese television game show is offering
cash-hungry citizens a path to riches.
Everyone Wins, unveiled Wednesday in the booming city of
Shanghai, is billed by its creators as the first TV quiz show
in the world that enriches viewers as well as contestants. The
show, which debuts on New Year's Day in Shanghai, looks
familiar enough: Seven players in a studio compete for cash
prizes by answering questions on everything from history to
But there's a twist, which executives at Shanghai Oriental
Television say they hope will prove irresistible to viewers in
this money-mad city of 17 million.
At show's end, the final digit of each player's score will
be strung together to form a seven-digit "lucky number."
Viewers who can match all or part of it with a personal number
- a home phone number, an official ID, a utility bill, even a
car licence plate - will collect up to $800 Cdn.
That's about four months' salary, even by the standards of
China's wealthiest city.
"People in Shanghai are going to like this," predicted Teng
Junjie, an executive director at Shanghai Oriental Television.
Shanghai, mainland China's financial capital, is an apt
location for launching a show that markets the enthusiasm of
greed to the masses.
The unremitting construction of shining skyscrapers and
shopping malls in this former hotbed of Communist radicalism
attests to its single-minded focus on higher standards of
living - a mindset Chinese leaders want to spread across the
"To get rich is glorious," the late supreme leader Deng
Xiaoping proclaimed in the 1970s when he abandoned China's
experiment with Communist utopianism for the profit motive.
Those have been the country's marching orders ever since.
Rising living standards have helped keep the Communist
party in power despite popular resentment over corruption and
the 1989 killings of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's
Deng's wisdom was reaffirmed last month at the party's
congress, where President Jiang Zemin - whose legacy is based
on building the country by making money - promised to lift
most of China's 1.3 billion people into a low middle-class
lifestyle by 2020. And middle-class lifestyle means, among
other things, more television viewers.
As China's increasingly market-driven economy put TVs into
more homes, TAB Quiz shows followed. The first appeared in the
1980s, primitive productions that offered TVs and washing
machines but no cash.
Nowadays, the most popular are slickly produced imitations
of foreign programs. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? spawned
China's Happy Dictionary, while The Weakest Link has become
The Grand Testing Arena for Wealth.
Arena produced the highest prize ever taken home by a
player in China - $40,000, according to the government's
Xinhua News Agency.
China is far from alone in its embrace of TAB Quiz shows
and their unabashed enthusiasm for avarice. Versions of The
Weakest Link have appeared in more than 70 countries. But in
one of the world's last Communist regimes, there are those who
fret about this latest foray into capitalist debauchery.
"While quiz shows give a lucky few sudden wealth, they also
end up creating a television culture in which consumption and
money are supreme," Xinhua warned in an editorial two weeks
Ordinary Chinese are more mellow.
"Quiz shows are the most fun programs on television because
the contestants get excited and rowdy, and audiences feel a
sense of participating," said Lisa Hong, a Shanghai resident
shopping for television sets at a downtown mall.
Everyone Wins pushes that participation to a new level with
a slick production that enlists the help of foreign experts.
The producer, Hong Kong-based Robert Chua, is a Singaporean
executive who also founded China Entertainment Television, a
24-hour Chinese-language family channel. The show fits
Shanghai perfectly, Chua says, because of the city's
enthusiasm for new ideas - particularly those that prove
"There was never such a show produced in China, or the
world," Chua said. "Shanghai wants new business ideas."