In China, being a couch potato could
lead to payday
Viewers of new
game show in Shanghai eligible for cash prizes
SHANGHAI, China – Who wants to be a millionaire? Pretty
much everyone in China, and communist leaders are urging them
on. Now, the latest Chinese game show is offering
treasure-seeking citizens a novel path to the riches their
government is encouraging – the chance to win cash simply by
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
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
government is trying to get Chinese excited about
Everyone Wins. Viewers who can match a "lucky
number" could collect up to $500.
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."
Although producers didn't spell out details at a news
conference, they said viewers who can match all or part of it
with any personal number – a home phone number, an official
ID, a utility bill, even a car license plate – will collect up
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 mind-set 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 nation'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
Mr. Deng's wisdom was reaffirmed last month at the party's
congress, where President Jiang Zemin – whose legacy is based
on building the nation 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
As China's increasingly market-driven economy put TVs into
more homes, 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 – $26,000, according to the government's
Xinhua News Agency.
China is far from alone in its embrace of 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," the official news agency Xinhua warned in
an editorial two weeks ago.
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
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, Mr. Chua says, because of the city's
enthusiasm for new ideas – particularly those that prove