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March 10, 2010

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White collars get their own club

WHITE-COLLAR workers, many from out of town, are a major force behind Shanghai's development and now they have an organization and VIP club to help them with everything from networking and socializing to parking and medical care.

A major draw is discounted shopping.

The Jing'an Elite Union, set up in December on Dagu Road, has around 2,000 members from around the city, and the number is snowballing.

The union not only helps white collars from out of town make friends and integrate, but also helps busy Shanghai folks who may not know that people working in the same building share their interests in Chinese culture, books, music and other fields.

The downtown district has around 100,000 white collars in more than 100 major office buildings. They account for around 90 percent of the district's tertiary industry, which contributes around 75 percent of the district's tax revenue.

"Working under great pressure, these people spend most of their time in offices and have little time to relax and meet new friends," says Zhu Bin, deputy director of the Jing'an District Social Work Committee that set up the Elite Union.

"They are making great contribution to our district and the government should give something back to express our gratitude to them."

The nonprofit union, with free membership, offers many kinds of services and activities, including shopping discounts, entertainment, theme parties, dating, legal services, shortcuts to medical care, skills training, continuing education and housing assistance.

The union itself on Dagu Road includes a cafeteria with Wifi service, a card room, and room for psychological counseling by professionals.

The union supported by the social work committee and district government aims to be a platform that optimizes and integrates the district's resources.

To join, white collars working or living in Jing'an District must register with their real names, IDs and other information by calling the hotline 400-820-8019, or log onto the official Website,

They can receive a credit card from China Citic Bank, if their applications are approved, which is also the membership card of the Elite Union.

"Our staff will get to you soon and confirm your personal information," says Tang Jiayin, one of six employees in the union. "We already have 2,000 and the number is snowballing."

They can enjoy discounts, preferential treatment and VIP services that cover some gyms and fitness clubs, badminton courts, dancing clubs and music lessons.

More than 400 businesses are part of the Elite Union, and offer special services to members.

By dialing the hotline, members can book popular restaurants and badminton courts, and receive discounts.

They can also enjoy the no-wait VIP channel for physical checkups in Huadong Hospital and the Shanghai No. 1 Maternity and Child Health Hospital - a great time-saver.

"It was hard at the very beginning to negotiate with businesses to join and offer discounts," says Zhu. "But now it's easier and more merchants want to join as they see business opportunities."

Working with China Citic Bank, members receive shopping discounts and preferential services from the bank's designated merchants in the district. These include "buy one, get one free" tickets at nine cinemas.

To help white collars find parking, the union plans to negotiate with residential communities where tenants drive to work in the morning and leave their parking spaces vacant.

The 240-square-meter Elite Union is located in the Top of City community. Each week it holds activities such as lectures on Chinese culture, friend-making skills, reading club book discussions and other events.

Members can log onto the to get the latest news on discounts and activities.

"It's a nice place to get to know new people and make friends," says Ivan Huang, a 34-year-old Shanghainese working in the district's Jiangning area. He was one of the first to join, taking part in almost every activity, such as one-day trips to the Thames Town and the Sheshan Hill in suburban Songjiang District.

In two months the Elite Union has held more than 20 activities, including trips to interesting spots in the city's outskirts, a badminton match, card-playing competition, amateur photography exhibition, and charity events to help seniors without children to care for them, and homeless dogs and cats.

"Joining the union makes you realize the big world is really so small," says Huang. "You suddenly find out, 'Wow, we work in the same office building'."

Address: Rm201A, 346 Dagu Rd.

Tel: 400-820-8019



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