There is a fascinating article by Howard French in the New York Times about the race of China's new rich to give their children a boost in the next, even more competitive generation. FasTracKids – what a wonderful, perfectly revealing name – has sprung up in Shanghai to tutor preschoolers in elite culture, sports, and manners.
The late, great sociologist E. Digby Baltzell said that a society will have a stable and legitimate ruling class only when it turns elite individuals, who rise to the top by merit and other individual skills, into a class made of families. The Chinese have, in the past generation, created such an elite of individuals. Now, before our eyes, we see them creating the first generation of what will become the Old Money of the New China.
What is equally fascinating is seeing exactly what they want their kids to learn. Another great dead sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, said that what separates the merely well-schooled from the most socially successful is their mastery of that parallel curriculum of "cultural capital." This is just the kind of knowledge that FasTracKids, and thousands of enrichment programs like it, teach children in families eager to rise socially. And what is the cultural capital that the next generation of the ancient Chinese civilization needs to know? Golf. For pre-schoolers. " In addition to early golf training, which has become wildly popular, affluent parents are enrolling their children in everything from ballet and private music lessons, to classes in horse riding, ice-skating, skiing and even polo." Manners classes are also in demand, as the Chinese rich have been embarrassed to learn that they are considered rude, "ugly Chinese" abroad.
In other words, the next ruling class in China is acquiring the same social capital that the ruling class in the West has been developing for centuries. I expect that mastery of Chinese culture will also be a part of their training. That distinctly Chinese culture they may learn better in regular school and at home. But when the stars of the world's most populous economy join the next global ruling class, they will be just like today's global ruling class: they will all play golf.