Here's one of the more colorful sayings attributed to China's new material girls, most notoriously on a Chinese television dating show:
"I'd rather cry in the back of your BMW than laugh on the back of your bicycle."
But the remark also reveals the aspirational urge across China to leave behind symbols of the past and to race headlong — wallets open and arms outstretched — into a more prosperous future.
As the Economist points out today in a must-read special report on the Chinese economy, the bicycle has long been a useful analogy for thinking about China's remarkable and complex economy: everything's fine as long as you keep peddling.
Here's how writer Simon Cox puts it:
"Bikes—especially when heavily laden—are stable only as long as they keep moving. The same is sometimes said about China’s economy. If it loses momentum, it will crash. And since growth is the only source of legitimacy for the ruling party, the economy would not be the only thing to wobble."
But as the Economist report also makes clear, that metaphor may be outdated.
China's government no longer sees gross domestic product growth of 8 percent as mandatory — it lowered that target to 7.5 percent last March.
And it is investment — on plants and machinery, infrastructure and other modernizing inputs — that's really driving the country's economy these days. It's not exports, as the conventional wisdom goes.
So big change is afoot in the world's second-largest economy.
And that begs the following questions: what's changing, and what does that change mean for the rest of us?