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China dazzled by ‘Wife Swap’

Reality show a domestic hit

BEIJING — The yawning gap between rich and poor in China has been brought into sharp relief by, of all things, a reality show.

QLTV in Shandong province has broken new ground with “Wife Swap,” in which a city-dwelling domestic engineer and a rural housewife switch places and live in each other’s household for two weeks.

Show is almost identical to the format created by Blighty’s RDF, which first aired in the U.K. on pubcaster Channel 4 before being sold to ABC Stateside.

Proving that will be tricky in China — and doesn’t concern Chinese viewers, who are mad for reality skeins.

“Wife Swap” has been running for several months at 9:30 p.m. Fridays documenting the efforts of the women to deal with the realities of shopping, washing, cleaning and educating children in households where the income gap is extreme.

This gap between rich urbanites on the eastern and southern coasts and the impoverished peasantry of the hinterland is China’s hottest political potato these days, making the show all the more controversial.

China aims to cut this inequality but it has a long way to go.

A report issued last week by the Asia Development Bank showed that incomes in the rich cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing are often comparable with U.S. average incomes, but around 800 million of China’s 1.3 billion people still live on around $1 a day.

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