Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sex, Love & Money in China

Anyone who knows anything about Shenzhen knows that it is the "wild wild west" of Chinese capitalism. Although some would argue Shanghai or Hong Kong as the major financial centers, Shenzhen is the real place where all the most able and capable entrepreneurs go. Maybe in 10-20 years, Shenzhen will develop into a international city, it is still currently a culture-less metropolis with a specific focus on money and everything money related.

I like describing Shenzhen as a melting pot of the most able people in China. The young worker in the factory is usually the eldest and most responsible or able in his/her family while the company owners are hotshots from every part of China. It is certainly a weird and unique place with a young population that like to get ahead.

One of the more interesting and somewhat unfortunate aspects of his money-hungry city is its hidden cultural intersection between sex, love and money. Here's the rule: those who dont have money will do a lot to get it. In this case it has led to a system of mistresses and

In a article published online by Telegraph.co.uk entitled "China girls: 'The only luxury we can't afford is love'", it describes the current and growing issue of 2nd wives and "concubines" in China. It follows a variety of individuals who are in this community of "二奶 [ernai]" and discuss the various social, political and personal issues that are involved.

Anyone who lives in a major city in China can see the various signs of this system. It is as simple as going to a club/bar on a weekend and seeing all of the 40 year old guys sporting the beer belly with a young and attractive girl in her 20s.

Even yesterday as I rode the elevator down from my apartment building at dinner time, I chatted with a really pretty girl in her 20s. I noticed that she was wearing expensive jewlery, clothing while radiating Channel purfume. As we parted ways outside of the building after some small talk, I saw her go directly into a high priced Mercedes waiting for her, driven by a 40-something guy.
Most 二奶 receive "rental on a fashionable penthouse in one of the city's dazzling white apartment blocks, plus a 5,000-yuan (about £350) monthly budget for clothing, haircare and skin-whitening treatments. That's more than double China's average monthly income."

In turn her 'husband' - a successful industrialist whose factories stud mainland China - entertains Little Snow once or twice a month. The nights are raucous, but the sex lacklustre, to Little Snow 'a function no different from brushing my hair or drinking a glass of water'. He's up before the sun rises, sometimes leaving a rose on the pillow.
Is this wrong? Is this right? I don't know. However, I do know that this is all created by the income disparity that exists between people from the countryside and those from the cities, between the young and old, between women and men.

As long as men in China have most of the wealth and the distrubution disparty between the different classes are so large, this system will always exist. As the Telegraph article states:'
The country has changed rapidly; but Chinese thinking hasn't caught up with this new reality,' says Yang Erche Namu, aka Namu, one-time mistress to a diplomat and now a postergirl for modern Chinese feminism, whose ballsy bestselling books urge Chinese women to pursue emotional and financial emancipation. 'Some men are getting very rich, with cash to throw around, but at the same time the wealth gap is widening and the countryside is full of young girls living in poverty. So it's natural that love becomes a transaction - it's a simple case of supply and demand.'
In addition to the young 2nd wives, there are also 2nd husbands, gigalos or 鸭子 [yazi] in Shenzhen. While this usually occurs less frequently, it is still a part of the culture. A recent Malaysian article described a young, 22 year old Shenzhen man blackmailing his 50 year old wife for 1 million HKD.

This just shows that its all about the money in Shenzhen.

Note: Many people have written about the issues relating to prostitution and brothels in Shenzhen and other Chinese cities. I have been recently reading China Inc. by Ted Fishman and it gives a great summary of the situation for girls who go into the pay-for-sex industry and its links with economic and financial struggles.

Also, just to show that Sex & Money is related in every culture, below is a recent ABC News report describing the growth in the US brothel service in the current bad economy.


Matthew said...

Last year I wrote a post about my mother-in-law talking with a neighbor who's been living in Shenzhen for 20 years. Apparently the woman believed that any successful person in Shenzhen must have an ernai (or male equivalent). She also claimed really successfully people should change partners every few months.

This city is really screwed up.

Mike said...

you have no idea.

Anonymous said...

I have been doing business in Shenzhen for five years now and I thought that I found the right woman of my life... she worked with me as an agent and translator and we did great business together and then, discovered that everything was "about money". She claimed to be in love with me but did not want to continue working with me and my business so I told her "okay" but when I stopped paying her salary, she became very dangerous... it was all about the money, nothing else.

Mike said...

its always about the money. people are the most pragmatic of anywhere

Anonymous said...

Mike, you're right about it being all about the money. These "ernai's" are migrating to the U.S. My marriage was almost ruined by one of them. They come in as low income workers and prey on their vulnerable male employers. Once they realize that it's the wife that is control of the money, they drop the man like a ball.

I'm an American-born Chinese woman, and my mother is from China, but I have a completely different outlook on the modern women from China. They have made us look very cheap and they disgust me.

Good luck and be careful out there in Shenzhen!

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