January 24, 2006

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RMB Morality

There is a fascinating article today in Xinhua, with the irresistable title, "Rich Guy Seeks Girl, Must Be Virgin" (not your father's Xinhua!). It talks about how a newly-minted, and newly-divorced RMB billionaire in China was looking for a new wife. Speaking to a friend, he came upon a solution: place an ad, to the effect of wanting a charming, hot virgin. His lawyer received 600 applications, shortlisted 100, then got 20 for his client friend to interview. One was successfully selected. Oh, and the lawyer took one of the rejects for himself. The lawyer now does a roaring business in matchmaking billionaires with virgins.

What was particularly interesting about this story though, is the aside Xinhua's editorial board deemed necessary to fit into the final stages of the story. Allow me to quote:

For centuries, Chinese practiced arranged marriages complete with dowries, leaving little place for Western-style notions of romance.

Only recently has the idea of living together unmarried gained limited social acceptance in China.

In a breathtakingly short period of time, though, sexual and romantic opportunity has sprung up everywhere in a society that still thinks of itself as conservative in such matters.

Prostitutes work openly in almost every hotel in China. The Internet has made possible everything from online dating to nude Web cam dancing, sprouting a vocabulary all its own, like MBA, or married but available. Unsurprisingly, divorce rates in cities like Shanghai are skyrocketing.

Aside from the surprisingly candid acknowledgement of the prevalence of prostitution in China, it made me wonder - what was the motive of putting this last bit into the story? I can only conclude that the message to girls is: save your virginity - you might be able to use it to land a tycoon. And guys, oh boy, but money sure can buy you love.

Is money the final bastion of public morality?

posted by HK Dave on 01.24.06 at 11:10 AM in the China people category.


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Saw you were nominated on the 2006 bloggies awards. Good luck!

posted by: Eric at Paris Daily Photo on 01.24.06 at 01:26 PM [permalink]

Kinda makes me wonder about how prevalent prostitution was in China before the internet age --

posted by: green LA girl on 01.24.06 at 03:21 PM [permalink]

Well, I must say, great insight into the purpose of the ending. And the article as a whole is interesting. If you are a billionaire, I guess you can afford to have outspoken, high standards.

posted by: Shay on 01.24.06 at 03:28 PM [permalink]

Eric (you have great photos on your site); the kudos though properly belong to the founder of this site, Simon M.

Green LA Girl, it was pretty obvious in the early 90s, before the Internet, that prostitution was already quite prevalent. As I travelled around the country in mid-decade I could hardly fail to notice the trucker whorehouses on the side of the road with their garish redlights, eerie phantasms splitting the darkness of the unlit China road.

By all accounts, though, for all the tragic, cruel failings of Maoist China, prostitution had almost been entirely been eliminated - at least in the sense of punters paying cash for sex [as opposed to trading sex for influence or a greater food ration].

Shay, thanks for the fillip. I guess if you have money in China a depressingly high proportion of things are for sale. Things are like that even in developed countries though (e.g. TV shows with ladies offering themselves to putative millionaires), so in a state that has existed in a de facto moral vacuum for the last quarter-century, and where the average person's annual salary is still under US$1,000, it is inevitable and, I would argue, largely culturally unspecific.

posted by: HK Dave on 01.24.06 at 04:09 PM [permalink]

The article seems identical to Howard French's article in today's New York Times. Maybe the candid acknowledgement of prostitution, etc, is French's, not Xinhua's.

posted by: Tim on 01.24.06 at 09:24 PM [permalink]

The answer to your final question is: no. Money is not final bastion of public morality. While this one, rather bizarre, story suggests that money might create an incentive to do the "right thing" sexually (let's just put aside for a moment if virginity is necessarily the "right thing"), even the briefest consideration of the crushing effects of greed (see: Dongzhou, Taishi, Panlong, etc., etc. etc.) suggest that the immoral effects of money far outweigh the moral effects (Perhaps you did not mean for us to take the question seriously. But it is a good question, and ought to be seriously considered).

posted by: Sam on 01.24.06 at 09:58 PM [permalink]

I also read this article earlier today on NYT.com. This is Howard French's writing style. Xinhua would probably rather have edited it, and the NYT probably said take it or leave it.

posted by: Neil on 01.25.06 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

Ah yes, I failed to notice the article continued onto the second page in a similar vein. It was interesting though that Xinhua put their own billing before the New York Times (indeed the excellent Howard French was the author).

In which case the tone makes much more sense, a bit of irony that seemed totally at odds with the official Organ of the CCP.

The question does remain though, whether money has become China's de facto state religion. I suppose the recent noises about Marxism are meant to be a palliative... Sam, please note I am not suggesting that money and morality tend to go together. I am merely pointing out that in a country denuded of absolutes, the Renminbi may also be the only 'hard currency' in terms of dictating public morality. But as the observer notes on the second page of the article, this phenomenon is likely to be a passing phase (I certainly hope so!).

posted by: HK Dave on 01.25.06 at 12:12 PM [permalink]

I am moved to ask the all important quesiton. how, exactly, does one check the authentisity of a Virgin?

posted by: ACB on 01.27.06 at 02:27 AM [permalink]

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