In If You Are the One the actress Shu Qi plays the mistress of a wealthy man named Fong.
In the 1991 classic, Raise the Red Lantern, Gong Li starred as the third mistress (or concubine) of a nineteenth century businessman.
Is it a coincidence that last year’s most popular movie and one of China’s best known films of all time both feature mistresses? Probably not. What it does tell you is that China’s ‘mistress culture’ is neither new nor showing signs of flagging.
It is one thing when businessmen have mistresses. But it seems to be considered altogether more heinous when Party officials do.
One of the government’s top bureaucrats, Li Yuanchao, is now warning against mistresses.
In an interview with Study Times – a weekly publication from the Central Party School – the head of the Organisation Department of the Party’s Central Committee warned offending officials that they would receive “demerits in their promotion prospects” and were seriously defaming the image of the Party.
A 2007 study showed that 90% of the top officials sacked for corruption kept mistresses.
But Li has also warned cadres against visiting hostess bars – where girls offer sanpei or the ‘three accompaniments’ of drinking, singing and sex. He also lamented that bureaucrats risked entrapment once they entered these “vulgar” places.
Mistresses have very much been in the news during the current crackdown in the giant western municipality of Chongqing. The unprecedented campaign – instigated by local Party Secretary, Bo Xilai – has netted almost 3,000 gangsters and corrupt officials. Trials began just over a fortnight ago.
Ironically, even officials in the judiciary have been outed for their misconduct.
Take Wu Xiaoqing, the former director of the court’s enforcement bureau. He’s been charged with graft but also grabbed media attention for keeping one of Chongqing’s top 10 local lawyers as his own mistress. Nicknamed by the press “the beautiful lawyer”, she was then able to earn colossal fees thanks to her close relationship to Wu.
In a similarly salacious news item it also emerged that the judicial bureau chief, Wen Qiang, had a very keen eye for starlets. Whenever a beautiful actress or singer visited Chongqing, Wen would use all available means (from cash to blackmail) to get them into bed. He has now been arrested for receiving bribes – which he allegedly took in return for protecting triad kingpins.
But perhaps the most notorious ‘mistress’ of all is Li Wei from Kunming. In return for business favours she slept with more than a dozen officials above the rank of vice-minister (including a former finance minister and a former Party secretary of Qingdao).
The link between corruption and lust has now become so strong that it is an open secret that questioning of mistresses is the first step in anti-graft investigations, writes the South China Morning Post.
Mindful of the problem, a new website – 12388.gov.cn – has been launched by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Its purpose: to let members of the public expose examples of “decadent and immoral” conduct by officials.
Lust in action, wrote Shakespeare, is the expense of spirit in a waste of shame. China’s ruling party apparently agrees with him.
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