The Social Pressures on the Businesswomen of China

28 Feb

Chinese New Year is a time of family in China, with the young men and women of China’s ever expanding social middle class travelling out of the big cities to visit family in more rural areas. With expectation radiating from mothers at home, those who are yet to find a significant other have turned to a rather odd sector which did very good business during late January and early February.

The idea of renting a lover seems almost oxymoronic in design; however for those young people with a decent wage in pocket it’s preferable to facing awkward questions at the dinner table. According to The Huffington Post (2014, available <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/10/rent-a-boyfriend-china-women-pay-men-relationship_n_4758824.html”>here</a&gt;) this pressure applies in particular to women due to the massive gender imbalance created by the one child policy. This amounts to an extraordinary 20 million more men than women under the age of 30 (Huffington Post 2014) and as a result, the social pressure on women is much higher than for men (due to the comparitively grand selection available). Those women who are single around New Years are called ‘shengv’ which directly translates to ‘leftover women’; a linguistically brutal reminder of the burden they face.

Hence there is now an industry revolving around renting a beau which is growing according to the Financial Times (2014, available <a href=”http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/54a400b0-88b6-11e3-9f48-00144feab7de.html#axzz2sumLRAuh”>here</a&gt;) where successful businesswomen hire men for anything from companionship, purely to show their parents, to sex. The prices are exceptionally fluid with entrepreneurial man for hire Sui Wei admitting (in a similar vein to many others in his line of work) he bases his starting rental charges on how successful the women are, and then add fees based on what actions they require of them. The latter is perhaps the most unsettling part of the story, with CBC news (2014, available <a href=”http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-boyfriend-rentals-are-booming-in-china-kisses-cost-extra-1.2524156″>here</a&gt;) reporting acting boyfriend Zhu Ruisen’s charges included $1 each time the couple held hands, while hugs and kisses were to be negotiated with the individual. As for the participation and price of sex, this depends on the individual offering the service. Although this is something both Mr Zhu and Mr Sui do not provide, mainly due to real girlfriends outside of work, the Financial Times (2014) report that this can cost anything from 3000 Yuan to 30,000, the equivalent of approximately £300 – £3000. The financial aim for Mr Zhu (which is again characteristic of the industry) is to charge his clients approximately one month’s salary in total (CBC News, 2014).

How to assess this business is difficult. One could interpret it as an innovative exploitation of supply and demand by those men looking to score a New Year bonus, while one could equally see it as a cynical form of prostitution (as if prostitution wasn’t inherently cynical enough). The individuals interviewed by the news sources above all admitted some feelings of guilt, with Mr Sui admitting a low point was accepting large quantities of money in a traditional red wedding envelope from one client’s parents. The overwhelming truth either way is that with such an imbalance of gender due to the one child policy, and the pressure of terminology like ‘leftover women’ being tossed around, this service is one that will inevitably grow and prosper into the future.

The solution is an almost crippling case of irony, with the procreation of the current generation being the key to addressing the gender imbalance and hence relieving the pressure felt by the successful business women of China. In simple terms; to address the problem of women being forced to act like they have a boyfriend in future, women have to get a boyfriend today. In the meantime, Mr Zhu and Mr Sui will continue successfully making big money for their services, a financial achievement that this free market fan can’t help but admire.

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