With the Chinese New Year quickly approaching—a time of family reunions, where people who live in the big cities travel back home—single 20- and 30-somethings across the country are cooking up ways to explain to their parents why they aren’t yet married.
But not the young 25-year-old who offered 1 million yuan for a girlfriend for a week. In an advertisement posted to the Chinese Internet app iweju (“mini-gathering” in English), he said he would pay just over $165,000 for a young Chinese woman who would accompany him for seven days over the Chinese New Year holiday; and he’d pick up the tab for the charter flight.
The phenomenon of renting a boyfriend or girlfriend is not entirely new to China. The griping of an older generation set upon matchmaking and ensuring that their children are married is a common complaint among young Chinese adults. A cottage industry in acquiring boyfriends and girlfriends to rent, to head off the parents nagging, thus sprang up.
But the offers were usually not as high-profile as this one. This Jan. 17 Internet post, which subsequently went viral, offered a huge reward, along with a series of strict and peculiar requirements: “The girl needs to be younger than 25, taller than 5’6”, weigh less than 110 pounds, look sweet, and have a Bachelor’s degree or a higher level of education. A PhD or a virgin will get an extra 10 percent reward!” the note said.
A fifth of the lump sum would be advanced on the first day, and the rest at the end, the note said. “Sign up and send me your contact information. Once you are approved, we’ll arrange an interview!”
The post was accompanied by pictures of a young Chinese man, with short hair, sitting at a desk over a large pile of 100-yuan bills. Photographs of the inside of a jet were also provided.
The ostentatiousness of the offer attracted 5,300 applications within days, but also a bout of unwanted media attention for the young man. The local newspaper Zhengzhou Evening News put the young man’s picture, with the pile of money, on its front page on Jan. 20.
That caused him to cancel the proposal because “too much pressure and trouble came to my life,” he wrote in an update to his post on iweju, the mobile application he originally used.
The renting of boyfriends or girlfriends became a theme in Chinese popular culture in the early 2000s, a product of the pressures parents put on the generation born in the 1980s—after the one-child policy came into effect.
These single children, having always been the focus of the family, have become the center of attention for the parents. Also, it was common for members of their parents’ generation to be married in their early 20s, or even late teens, but social mores have also changed.
“I am a single daughter. My dad and mom started looking for a boyfriend for me last year,” a 27-year-old female calling herself Luly told Guangdong News. “They forced me to go home and have blind dates with the boys they found. Otherwise, I’d need to find a boy by myself and show them over the New Year. They give me headache.”
The desire for grandchildren is another reason parents put their children under pressure. “She must get married and then have a child sooner or later. Why wait for so long?” Mrs. Wu said to China.com, an official news service. “The older you are, the harder to find a partner, and also harder to have a child.”
With the pressures from an older generation not looking to subside anytime soon, young adult Chinese Internet users have taken to openly posting Available or For Hire ads, so they can make a few dollars on the side.