Neo Rich Spur Boom In China’s “Mistress Market”

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BEIJING – Jian, a 42-year-old property developer in the booming southern metropolis of Shenzhen, had acquired just about everything men of his socioeconomic ilk covet: a Mercedes-Benz , a sprawling antique jade collection and a lavishly appointed duplex for his wife and daughter.

It was only natural then, he said, that two years ago he took up another costly pastime: a beguiling 20-year-old art major whose affections run him about $6,100 a month.

Jian, who asked that his full name be withheld lest it endanger his 20-year marriage, cavorts with his young coed in a secret apartment he owns, a price he willingly pays for the modern equivalent of a concubine. “Keeping a mistress is just like playing golf,” he said. “Both are expensive hobbies.”

As China has shed its chaste Communist mores for the wealth and indulgences of a market-oriented economy , the boom has bred a generation of nouveau-riche lotharios yearning to rival the sexual conquests of their imperial ancestors. Even the Chinese term for mistress – “ernai,” or second wife – harks back to that polygamous tradition of yore.

Such arrangements appear to be commonplace among corporate titans, rags-to-riches entrepreneurs and government officials whose inordinate and ill-gotten gains can maintain one or more lovers – mostly sustained through stipends, furnished apartments and luxury sports cars.

In July, Xu Maiyong, former vice mayor of Hangzhou, was executed for bribery and embezzlement. Nicknaming him “Plenty Xu,” the Chinese press reported that he kept dozens of mistresses. And in a shocking case, an official in Hubei Province was detained on suspicion of strangling his mistress – then pregnant with twins – and dumping her body in a river after she demanded he marry her or pay $300,000, according to media reports.