Edison "Eddie" Cheng is potentially once of the most odious characters in the book (watch out, Francesca Shaw!). Cousin to Astrid and Nick, Eddie has been pretty awful since he was a child. In London, as a teenager, when the rest of the family is acting polite and demure in a hotel lobby, Eddie is sliding "wildly across the lobby, his sneakers leaving muddy tracks on the black-and-white checkerboard marble" (P.2).
As cousin of Nick and Astrid, Eddie is the eldest son of Alexandra (Alix) Young, youngest sister of Felicity and Philip. So we know he has the long lineage and prestige from his mother's side of the family. His father, Dr. Malcolm Cheng, is a world-renowned heart surgeon, arguably the best in Southeast Asia, who wears lambskin gloves and has a chauffeur to protect his precious hands, though Eddie laments his father's "common" stock (1.10.6).
Nowadays, Eddie lives in Hong Kong with his picture-perfect family of wife and three, studious children. He's been given all the opportunities to be successful, but he is plagued by rabid materialism and jealousy.
Standing in his "best friend" Leo Ming's apartment in Shanghai, looking at a closet that organizes and catalogs outfits, Eddie feels "the sudden urge to shove his friend's bloated face into the pristine mirrored wall" (1.10.5). Wow. Great friend.
Sadly, this seems the nature of their "friendship," again we use that in quotes because it doesn't feel like they care much about each other as people. Eddie blames his parents for his unfortunate circumstances: he doesn't have his own plane, he doesn't have a crew for his yacht, nor is his yacht even big enough for hosting parties! All Eddie can think of are the things he doesn't have and how it's someone else's fault he doesn't have them.
What makes Eddie particularly odious (yeah, we haven't even touched on the worst part yet) is the way he treats his wife and children. For the most part, the blood-related members of the Young clan treat people with kindness and respect. Eddie has picked up none of this. His obsession with appearances drives him to sacrifice relationships with his family for his relationship with the paparazzi. More than once he brings his children to tears over their outfits, calls his wife a disgrace, and threatens to break his daughter's fingers if she plays Lady Gaga at Su Yi's home. Dear Eddie, you're the worst.
The final scene with his family is a heartbreaker, not for what happens to Eddie, but for the pain he brings to his family…and all because he wants them to look good for the paparazzi. After Eddie's six-year-old son accidentally spills Orange Fanta on his dad's tux (Eddie's fault, by the way), he chases the child through the house, yelling at him to accept his punishment. Good on Fiona for ruining Eddie's plans for the photo op by taking the kids in a separate car.
So why do we have to put up with Eddie throughout this story? He contributes little other than being a foil for Nick and Astrid. It's important that we see Nick and Astrid as unique in this family. Eddie is similar to many of the other characters we see who are all about appearances and striving to be something. He reminds the reader, that like Dr. Gu said, "every treasure comes with a price" (2.16.75).