Second Chinese wives are back
This trend is not new
Since the dawn of time, the myth of the Chinese concubine is maintained. Historically, these more-or-less secret mistresses allowed showing the status of a man. More mistresses were numerous, more the man was important. The Chinese Tang Emperor Gao Zong enjoyed over 3000 concubines. In 1949, Mao judging these practices as feudal and decadent so he decided to put an end to.
However, since two decades of economic changes, many Chinese became rich and powerful want more than ever to show off their success. Their social progress is seen by their many luxury expenses (car, travel, home etc.). But now, they consider that it is not enough. The best way to show its rank is the maintenance of young and pretty mistresses. The modern cohabitation thus comeback! This phenomenon is spreading so fast that in most major Chinese cities, there are “concubine villages”, with buildings housing luxury apartments where young women maintained their spending and gifts : jewelry, wardrobe, new technologies…
If powerful Chinese people maintain these practices, the Chinese morality remains upset by the resurrection of this phenomenon, subject to strong controversy.
The business of these secret relations
The businessman and powerful men are the first fans of these modern, young and beautiful women. For the rich Chinese man, maintaining a second wife means having the financial means to support two women and two lifestyles. They are proud of it because it’s a way to show their face. The super-rich Chinese revive extramarital affairs, seen as a sign of wealth. The parallel relationship’s cement is money: man showing off with a young beauty, the woman enjoys his fortune. This relationship is organized as a win-win situation. The trend of these new wives is so fashionable that luxury cars have named a segment of their range “car mistress” (often flashy sports cars).
For example, Jian, a 42 years Chinese businessman at the New York Times says “Having a mistress is like playing golf. These are two expensive hobbies”. To maintain his extramarital affair with a 20 year old student, he spends about 4,500 € per month.
The seconds wives are poorly views in China and often related to corruption
These secret relationships are not accepted by the Chinese people. It offends the moral majority and disturbs public opinion which begins to wonder. Many scandals are surfacing and even if the Ministry of propaganda try to not transcribe the information, the Chinese are not stupid. These extra-relationships are often exhibited and quickly unmasked. In addition, it is often the most influential and wealthy Chinese who convey this drift. Last summer, for example, the vice mayor of Hangzhou, Xu Maiyong nicknamed “Xu full”, was executed because he had more than a dozen mistresses.
In 2009, leaders of Party discipline showed that 95% of corrupt officials had a mistress. The revelations of extramarital affairs keep coming few years, threatening the stability of the family.
An active struggle is taking place against this phenomenon
In 2010 and after many scandals, Hu Jintao had to take serious measures explicitly asking Party leaders to refrain from all venal and young women temptations. The government of Guangdong province has decided to establish compulsory courses for high school students to rekindle their self-esteem, independence and personal development.
Legally, the law prohibits the mistresses to continue their lovers through the courts. It represents another way to make these relations as unofficial. This law is reinforced by the possibility for official wives to require all of the money given to the other girl. Other measures emerge. In 2011, the “Institute of Women” opened in Beijing in order to coach deceived wives and help them against the mistresses of their husband. Private detective agencies also track down wayward husbands.
Zhang Yufen is a familiar face of this intense struggle. Her nickname is “The killer mistress” and she defends wives who undergo these extramarital relationships (she has experienced this personally with her husband who has had a mistress for 10 years).
Finally, Beijing and Shanghai are the pioneer cities of the creation of a database of weddings. This database should cover the whole of China by 2015 to identify and rectify situations of each.