They buy more Bentleys than the British, fill their luxury homes with more Swarovski crystal than the Swiss, and spend more on Louis Vuitton and Versace than the French or the Italians. But one precious commodity has eluded the Chinese in their extraordinary rise from peasant nation to superpower: good manners.
Now a school of etiquette is about to open in Beijing with classes based on the deportment of the British aristocracy – and the decorous behaviour of the Duchess of Cambridge. Sara Jane Ho, a Hong Kong businesswoman who grew up in London, is offering lessons in being classy to an exclusive clientele for an appropriately princely sum: courses at her Institute Sarita, based in the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel in Beijing, cost from £2,000 to £10,000.
现在，在北京出现了一所教授英国贵族礼仪和剑桥公爵夫人（即凯特王妃）行为规范的礼仪学校。何佩嵘（Sara Jane Ho），生长在伦敦的香港女商人，在位于北京五星级的凯悦酒店，专门为她的客户提供礼仪课程，教授她们如何像王妃般优雅。每个人的学费从2千到1万英镑不等（约2万到10万人民币）。
Dozens of society wives have signed up for lectures on how to use a knife and fork properly, how to peel a piece of fruit, how to greet a prospective mother-in-law, how to walk in heels and how to eat soup without slurping. High-powered bosses of Chinese state-owned companies are also hiring Sara Jane for lessons on how to conduct themselves at business meetings in Europe and America.
She says a subtle pro-British snobbery is driving the desire of wealthy Chinese to improve themselves socially: ‘There is an aura of mystery about European royalty that Chinese people can’t resist. Any aristocracy in China was wiped out, so the Chinese are fascinated by the idea of a royal dynasty that stretches back hundreds of years.’
Sara Jane plans to show her students pictures and videos of Kate Middleton – someone who, like China itself, rose from a relatively humble background to take her place at the top table.
She says: ‘Kate is probably the most followed Royal in China. She is very elegant, very classy. Even though she is not from an aristocratic family, she carries herself very well and I think she is a role model for the younger generation around the world.’
In her plummy British accent, she says: ‘I am Chinese and very proud of my country. I don’t think the vast majority of Chinese people are purposely offensive. They just haven’t been enlightened to etiquette awareness.’
She is hoping to invite British aristocrats to lecture her students and even has plans to lead classes on a Grand Tour, taking in the opera houses and art galleries of Europe to complete their education.
Sara Jane hopes that the perfect manners she is teaching will trickle down to the rest of Chinese society: a new form of cultural revolution. ‘When I say I’m starting an etiquette school the first thing people say to me is, “Thank you. China needs this,” ’ she says.