Society

Anchors away

Why powerful Chinese men date TV hosts

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Shen Xing: boyfriend trouble

Last week China’s microblogging world went into a frenzy when news surfaced that celebrity TV host Shen Xing’s apartment in Hong Kong had been “broken into” by her boyfriend, the tycoon Li Jun.

Li, who’s now on bail in Hong Kong, flew into the city from the mainland last Wednesday night and went straight to Shen’s flat because he was suspicious that she was cheating on him. She was not at home, so the next day he made a second attempt, arriving at Shen’s apartment around 7.30am. When she refused to open the door, Li asked his driver to park his van against an outer wall so that he could climb up on it. Armed with a telescopic baton, he is alleged to have smashed the French windows on her balcony and made his way inside, finding another man (someone by the last name Wu), says the Hong Kong Standard.

Li, 42, was later arrested by police and now faces charges of burglary and possession of a prohibited weapon.

The news became one of the most talked-about topics on weibo. Shen is a household name in China and reputed to be one of the country’s most beautiful TV presenters. She joined Phoenix TV at the end of 2004 and has hosted cooking, entertainment and music programmes.

Even before Shen’s story was making headlines, another TV anchor was also struggling with the media limelight. The lady in question is Jiang Feng, a news anchor for state broadcaster CCTV, who was outed as a former mistress of Xu Ming during the trial of Bo Xilai (see WiC206). It was revealed during Bo’s prosecution that Jiang is the nominal owner of a villa in Cannes bought by Xu on behalf of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai in 2001. The revelation quickly sparked online accusations that Jiang had chased Xu for his money, although she was affronted by the suggestion, insisting that she partnered with the Dalian businessman for love. “I wouldn’t have fallen in love with someone just because he is rich,” Jiang wrote on her Sina Weibo account. “By the same token, I would never turn somebody down just because he is not rich.”

One of Bo Xilai’s alleged mistresses in Dalian is also said to have been a TV presenter. So what makes television show hosts so popular? Given the number of actual (and rumoured) cases that have come to light, the trend has sparked some discussion. Some reckon that its down to more than star appeal – and that this type of woman embodies intellect as well as beauty. “In real life, female TV anchors have the strong halo effect so that they are almost invincible. Not only do they have beauty, which is a great advantage, they also have brains and fame,” is the verdict of Securities Times.

Of course, it goes almost without saying that there is the question of opportunity: TV anchors have greater access to some of the most powerful men in the country, some of whom they may even have impressed on-air during interviews.

Possibly the most famous TV anchor-turned-lover is Ji Yingnan, a former host on the China Travel and Economic Channel. Back in June, Ji went public with her own affair with Fan Yue, a powerful Communist Party official, after she discovered that Fan had been married with a teenage son the entire time they were together.

To get her revenge, Ji then released hundreds of photos that offered a rare window into the life of a Chinese government official, reports the Washington Post. Despite his modest salary, Fan was able to lavish his lover with shopping sprees, the newspaper says. For instance, Fan bought her an Audi A5, and he stuffed cash into her wallet whenever he had the chance.

Alas it didn’t end too well: after Ji’s disclosures, Fan was quickly removed from his government position.

Then there’s Liu Fangfei, another famous CCTV host. Liu was linked to Wang Yi, the vice-president of China Development Bank before he was convicted for accepting bribes in 2010. During the trial, Liu was discovered to have received Rmb2 million from Wang, to help the news anchor pay off a housing loan.

But there is also the occasional happy ending. Yang Lan, a well-known talkshow host, married Bruno Wu, a businessman in 1995. The two met when Yang was getting her masters degree at Columbia’s journalism school in New York, where Wu was running his own media consulting firm. The two later founded Sun TV Network in 1999 and they are now one of the richest media couples in the country. Yang once said: “An outstanding woman doesn’t always have a good ending, unless she finds a good husband.”

For Shen Xing (she of the broken French windows), the saga continues, as online speculation mounts about the identity of ‘businessman’ Wu.


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