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Kevin Kwan's new novel, China Rich Girlfriend, inspired by rich Vancouverites

Author Kevin Kwan is following up his 2013 bestseller, Crazy Rich Asians, with a another satirical portrait of affluent Asian culture in China Rich Girlfriend.

'Canada has become a staging area for Chinese money,' says the bestselling satirical author

Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan describes the massive fortunes and massive spending by China’s super-rich that inspired his 2nd novel. 1:58
Sprawling estates and private planes may be atypical for the average person, but author Kevin Kwan gives his readers a taste of opulence by zeroing in on Mainland China's super-rich elite in his latest novel China Rich Girlfriend.

The new book, a sequel to his 2013 international bestseller and soon-to-be feature film, Crazy Rich Asians, transports readers to a wealthy world riddled with luxury brands and a set of scheming characters who would put Gossip Girl's socialites to shame. 

Kevin Kwan's second novel China Rich Girlfriend follows a Chinese-American woman who’s slated to wed one of Asia's most-eligible bachelors. (Knopf Doubleday)
The set-in-Mainland China story follows Rachel Chu, a young Chinese-American woman who's slated to wed one of Asia's most eligible bachelors, Nicholas Young. Before she jumps headlong down the gilded aisle, she unearths family secrets of the nouveaux riches.

Although Kwan's latest rendering of Asian affluence derives from jet-setting tech billionaires he's met or read about, he concedes that Canada's Chinese community also influenced his writing.

 "How could Canada not come up?" Kwan said in an interview with CBC News. "Canada has become such a staging area for Chinese money."

Born and raised in Singapore until the age of twelve, the Asian-American novelist draws from his lavish upbringing in Southeast Asia, but suggests that the wealthy cohort in Vancouver cannot be ignored.

"[Asian wealth] is especially prevalent in Vancouver," said Kwan, who described the influx of "Hong Kong rich" immigrants to Vancouver in the mid 1990s.

From Shanghai to Chopstick Hill

Although the novel's crop of characters romp around Mainland China, Kwan says there are parallels between Vancouver's super elite and his moneyed Chinese characters.

Kevin Kwan says his latest rendering of Asian affluence, China Rich Girlfriend, was partly inspired by the lives of wealthy Vancouverites. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
"You hear the stories. You hear the nicknames. There's an expensive neighbourhood in Vancouver called Chopstick Hill," quips Kwan, who spends a lot of time in Vancouver visiting family and friends.

"UBC is known as the University of a Billion Chinese," he said, smiling.

Kwan also explains that the aesthetic of Vancouver's luxury condos has become desirable to the upper crust back in China.

"I've literally seen these Chinese billboards advertising new condo developments," said Kwan. "It's become aspirational for Chinese to buy Vancouver-styled condos."

New money, more problems

With a no-holds-barred approach, Kwan pokes fun at this new money strata in China Rich Girlfriend.

The characters unabashedly flaunt their accoutrements with no shortage of flashy cars, luxury brands, and ostentatious penthouses, but it hasn't always been that way.

"Old money in Southeast Asia is much more discrete and low key,"  said Kwan. "It's about not wearing brand names. It's about being invisible, almost. The billionaire can be taking the bus with you."

China Rich Girlfriend's colourful cast of characters don't exemplify this old-money mantra. In fact, they personify what Kwan describes as "China rich".

"The China rich are all about flaunting it," he said. "They've been through sixty years of complete repression where they had nothing, where millions starved. And now that they're reveling in their money, they're going to enjoy it."

Whether you can relate to old money, new money, or no money, Kwan promises that his novel's themes are fundamentally universal. 

"Even if they're not Asian or super rich … everyone has a nagging mother," he says. "Everyone has that obnoxious uncle, or that cousin who's a bit too snobby."

China Rich Girlfriend hit bookstands earlier this month. 

Kevin Kwan describes the "whole new of level" of wealth in the video above.

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