SHANGHAI, China Dec. 18 —
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
"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 science.
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 license plate
will collect up to $500.
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
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 land.
"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 Tiananmen
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
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
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 enriching.
"There was never such a show produced in China, or the world,"
Chua said. "Shanghai wants new business ideas."
|A man stands below a billboard
featuring bank notes from around the world at an exhibition in
Beijing in this Sept 15, 2001 file photo. A new television
game show called "Everyone Wins," in which both the viewers as
well as contestants can win, is being launched in Shanghai, an
apt location for a show that markets the enthusiasm of greed
to the masses. (AP
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