China's cheating male hearts

By Rosanne Lin, Shanghai Star. 2002-03-28

On a recent trip from Shanghai to Taipei, which included a stopover in Hong Kong and Macao, I was astonished to find the same two topics of conservation on the lips of local people everywhere in China - corruption and unfaithful husbands.

Well, corruption we certainly all know about. It seems these days public officials across every region of the country are willing to risk the gallows in their attempts to pilfer public funds; money allocated for everything from earthquake reconstruction to children's education. Nothing is sacred.

And with the exception of Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai - presently terrorizing corrupt officials on Taiwan who may prove to have been even bigger private contributors to George W. Bush's run for the White House than Enron - it would appear that there is nothing anyone can do to stop this trend.

But what about unfaithful husbands? Are these men also willing to risk their lives in the pursuit of wrongful gains? The answer would appear to be in the affirmative.

Consider the case of a man I once knew from Taiwan. He proudly claimed to have a girlfriend in Tokyo, a girlfriend in Taipei, a wife in Guangdong and another more locally located. Considering the alleged wife on Taiwan was a police officer, I doubt this particular wandering husband feared having a loaded gun pointed at his head.

And whether it's an angry wife with a loaded weapon, or the state, these cheating hearts seem to have little fear of strict punishments. They rival any self-serving public official in their brashness.

According to a Beijing-associated press release two years ago, unfaithful married men risked being sent to labour camps if caught patronizing prostitutes.

However, while visiting a nightclub in Macao, I happened to meet several men from Shanghai and Shenzhen busy lavishing funds on a pair of Russian ladies rumoured to be "in the business". I guess if these men faced a holiday stopover in a labour camp, they could always seek solace in their fond memories of Macao.

Meanwhile, back on Taiwan, I found that the local members of the "first-and-wanting-to-stay-that-way wives' club" have been desperately flocking to purchase so-called cellular "spy phones" at 14,900 yuan ($1,800) a pop, which manufacturers claim can be used to spy on their unfaithful husbands.

How does this deterrent fair? Well, after joining four male Taiwanese friends for dinner during my visit, I gather the whole effort has been an abysmal failure.

My male friends are quite proud of their China-wide reputation. And why not? They have invested a hell of a lot of money to earn it!

But what is it all for? Experts place the blame partly in Chinese cultural tradition that links a man's status to the number of wives and concubines he has. Personally, this explanation just doesn't do it for me.

Returning to Shanghai, I am left completely at a loss. All I can say ladies - to quote the most famous of ex-wives - don't get mad, get everything, darling!

It would appear, the wayward public officials have already taken this advice.

Copyright by Shanghai Star.