Feature

China: The return of the concubines

Concubines were outlawed after the 1949 Communist revolution, but in recent years prominent government officials and businessmen have begun openly keeping mistresses, said Stephen Wong in <em>The Asia Times.</em>

Stephen WongThe Asia Times

China’s age-old tradition of “keeping concubines is back,” said Stephen Wong. Common in Imperial China, concubines were outlawed after the 1949 Communist revolution. But in recent years, “with the advent of economic modernization and capitalistic values,” prominent government officials and businessmen have begun openly keeping mistresses. Having a “second wife” is a status symbol. But it also seems to lead to corruption.

Officials tend to “shower mistresses with lavish gifts and money,” setting them up in their own homes, often at seaside resorts that are known as “concubine villages.” To pay for all that excess, the officials take bribes or embezzle funds. One construction magnate, sentenced to death for corruption (he later won a reprieve), had more than 140 mistresses. Police found the “sex diary” in which he listed all his ladies, what he gave them, and what he did with them. Another man convicted of corruption, a banker, spent more than $2 million of his bank’s money on his mistress.

An anti-corruption official recently warned bureaucrats to stay clear of “beautiful women.” That’s unlikely to have any effect. “From senior party and government officials to grass-roots organizers—anyone who has access to power has access to mistresses.”

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