The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The Girl Bomb

“Keeping a mistress is just like playing golf,” Jian, a wealthy 42-year-old property developer recently told the NYT in a story on the return of the old pre-communist Chinese custom of keeping mistresses.   “Both are expensive hobbies.”

China’s nouveau riche can have everything they want — from fancy cars to expensive apartments to mistresses. Some, like convicted embezzler Xu Maiyong (or Plenty Xu, as the Chinese press called him), kept dozens of mistresses.

Remember that the one child policy combined with prenatal testing has led to the abortion of uncounted millions of girls in China and that a radical imbalance in gender has now appeared.  There aren’t enough girls in China for every young man to find a wife — and now the millionaires are taking mistresses as well as wives. One suspects that that unavailablity of women makes mistresses even more than normally desirable; the whole point of conspicuous consumption is to demonstrate your ability to enjoy what others lack.

This is going to hurt; for the less wealthy, it is getting harder to find brides.  In a sign of the times, one young man persuaded forty-eight of his friends to dress in giant carrot costumes and perform a dance with him at a mall where he, also dressed as a carrot, popped the question to the girl of his dreams. She said yes, possibly out of concern that there would me more and more dancing carrots in her future until she finally gave in.

It’s all good for gender equality in China; women can be picky and men will have to compete, hopefully not all in carrot costumes.  But it’s hard to think of social dynamite more explosive than tens of millions of young men with no girlfriends and, should the economy slow, no jobs and no prospects.  Millionaires keeping mistresses, especially when some of the millionaires are corrupt government officials, is exactly the kind of infuriating, in-your-face scandal that can turn sullen anger into uncontainable rage.

Interesting times, as they say.

Published on August 11, 2011 8:07 am
  • Soul

    Yeah, that is a topic my friend from China has talked about for a number of years – corrupt government officials, tied with business, keeping several mistresses. The article mentions that this is a return to the old pre-communist ways. From what Wang has mentioned over the years, I do not believe the practice ever went away.

  • Luke Lea

    Surprisingly, similar things are happening here in the U.S.. At least according to this anthropologist.