China’s young workers are ranking their wealth by the ability to buy cherries – the other levels include Starbucks, lipsticks and romance

How well-off are you? If you’re unsure, an unofficial guide used by China’s young, working netizens may offer some direction.

The guide, titled “15 levels of female financial freedom”, estimates one’s wealth by a person’s ability to buy certain consumer products without thinking twice.

One of the levels, “cherry freedom” – which is level six – is now one of China’s most talked-about topics, after a woman lamented in an online audio essay the high costs of living in Beijing, where she said even highly-paid young professionals were unable to afford the imported fruit, which is considered a luxury item.

Called “che li zi zi you” in Mandarin, the term references the prunus avium variety of cherries, which China mainly sources from Chile. These imported cherries are a different variety from the locally produced prunus pseudocerasus, and their high demand in recent years has driven up prices.

According to a video by one infotainment channel on Chinese social media, the price of Chilean cherries have increased drastically since 2001. By 2015, prices of the cherry reached US$7.34/kg.

Despite this, imported cherries remain popular, especially during the Spring Festival. In 2017, US$770 million worth of cherries were imported into China, the highest in value of all imported fruits, the video said.

On Jan 29, the topic “how much does one cherry cost” was the fourth most-searched topic on Weibo, a widely-used Chinese portal with Twitter-like functions. The topic saw Weibo users posting photos that showed how much cherries were being sold for, with prices ranging from 0.80 yuan to 5 yuan (US$0.12 to US$0.75).

An article by Sixth Tone said that after the audio essay, the term “cherry freedom” quickly became a trending hashtag on Weibo, as many young netizens joked about how poor they were.

And according to the unofficial guide, “cherry freedom” is even one level higher than “Starbucks freedom” – which is the ability to buy a drink from the American coffee chain in any size you want, without overthinking the cost. Business news website Caixing reported in November last year that a cup of Americano can cost more than 30 yuan at Starbucks outlets in China.

These are the other levels of financial freedom in the guide:

Level 1: Latiao Freedom

Latiaos are spicy sticks commonly eaten in China. Commonly sold in large sets, latiao can cost no more than 15 yuan for a set of 20 big packs.

Weilong is a popular brand of latiao in China.
Weilong Weibo page

Level 2: Milk tea freedom

Bubble tea (boba) or milk tea is a common sight in China, but do you have the freedom to buy it whenever you want?

Lianhe Zaobao

Level 3: Membership freedom

You’ve unlocked level 3 once you are able to purchase your own streaming service membership.


Level 4: Food delivery freedom

When you’re at this level, you don’t worry about what to eat, and you can care less about delivery fees and meeting minimum amounts for delivery.


Level 5: Starbucks freedom

You know you have Starbucks freedom when you can buy a cup whenever you feel like – and it’s not just so you can post a photo on Instagram, the online guide says.


Level 6: Cherry freedom

No matter what season it is, a person with cherry freedom is able to purchase some as long as there is an urge to eat it.


Level 7: Gaming freedom

Need to pay to achieve special perks in a video game? Not an issue at this level.


Level 8: Lipstick freedom

Your favourite and latest colours are never out of reach once you’ve reached lipstick freedom.


Level 9: Clothing freedom

Price doesn’t matter to the consumer with clothing freedom. You can buy from your favourite brands at any time, and of course, not a single piece is from the past season.


Level 10: Online shopping freedom

No need to wait for payday: People with online shopping freedom can buy whatever they want as soon as they spot it online.


Level 11: Smartphone freedom

If you are able to buy any smartphone – and it doesn’t matter how much storage space you need – as and when you see one you fancy, then you’ve unlocked level 11.


Level 12: Travel freedom

Fly whenever you want, where ever you want. Hotels? Take your pick. At this level, you can choose whatever makes you most comfortable.


Level 13: Handbag freedom

At this level, it doesn’t matter what the bag is made of, or what brand it carries. If you like it, get it.


Level 14: Relationship freedom

No need to rely on a man. At this stage, a woman is unafraid of losing her financial stability when she breaks up with her partner.


Level 15: Property freedom

And finally, the highest level is achieved when you can buy property in any location you want, for any amount that is required.