The burly paragons of foreign masculinity that comprise a portion of China Economic Review‘s editorial team were shocked and dismayed to read in the Shanghai Daily that all their manliness may be for nought. It’s bad enough that demand for our professional talent is on the wane; in the supermarket of love, foreign guys are getting put on the discount rack. Yes, after years of reveling in sordid escapades – including but not limited to heated discussions about AP Style’s capitalization rules – we now find that, as Shanghai Daily‘s headline bluntly puts it, “Foreign men [are] not so attractive.”
The story outlines the results of a survey by online matchmaking site Hongniang.com (see this story about China’s online dating industry from our February issue), which showed that the economic crisis has drastically reduced levels of happiness of Chinese women married to foreign men.
Before the crisis, 6,594 women who were married to foreign husbands reported an average score of happiness worth 72. For women aged 25-30 the score was 76 and for women aged 31-40, 68.
After the crisis, the average score dropped to 54 for the 4,377 surveyed, with scores of 63 for the group aged 25-30 and 45 for the group aged 31-40.
Meanwhile, the number of women willing to marry a foreigner fell from 42.5% to 16.8%.
The cynical reaction might be to attribute the massive drop in foreigners’ drawing power to a predilection among Hongniang’s user base for the financially attractive. And like Chinese companies swooping in to buy up Australia’s beleaguered commodities sector, Chinese men appear well-positioned for fresh matrimonial acquisitions. However, there is one key number missing from the survey: the comparative happiness levels of Chinese women married to Chinese husbands. Did the survey fail to inquire on this point? Or on marriages between Chinese men and foreign women? A cursory search of Hongniang.com failed to turn up the original survey data.
Regardless, we suspect there’s something more to this. China’s government has made it clear that a rise in domestic consumption is key to ensuring a rapid and sustainable economic turnaround. In rural areas, the government has introduced vouchers to encourage farmers to buy locally produced household appliances. Could there be a secret voucher program aimed at promoting consumption of Chinese men at the expense of their foreign competitors? There is already a not-so-secret campaign to discourage Chinese women from the wiles of foreign men, conducted via TV and movie scripts.
On the other hand, Chinese women’s displeasure at the free-spending ways of foreign men (noted in the article as a singular point of dissatisfaction for Chinese women) bodes ill for plans to stimulate domestic consumption. It appears Chinese women are now looking for men who prefer noodles to foie gras. Like other distressed sectors, foreign men now look to the stimulus plan to revive demand for hairy, spendthrift foreign chumps in the second or third quarter.