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Adam Minter

Cirque du Soleil Has No Chance in China

The company has Chinese owners, but no Chinese audience.
Not enough bling.

Not enough bling.

Photographer: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Bloomingdale

It's no secret that Cirque du Soleil has been in need of a savior. After spreading to 271 cities around the world in the 1990s and 2000s, the producer of elaborate circus events has more recently hit hard times. In 2013, the company laid off 400 employees, mostly at its Montreal headquarters, citing rising expenses and the global economic downturn. It looked like Cirque had finally slipped off its high wire.

Just in the nick of time, a Chinese company seems to have swooped down to stop its plummet. Last weekend, Fosun International, China’s largest private conglomerate, announced that it had acquired a minority stake in Cirque du Soleil in order to add a “unique element” to what the company calls its “happy lifestyle area” (which includes hotels and resorts, including Club Med) that target China’s growing middle class. It seems like a clear win-win: Cirque gets a massive new market for its kitsch, and Fosun gets to shift its business model away from China's slowing real estate sector.