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How to marry a Billionaire (If you can’t find the PhD student of your dreams)

(A Guest post by Yajun)

Girls all over the world dream about finding love and marrying a rich handsome knight in shining armor, and there will always be those who take it a step further.  While every country has gold diggers, here in China there’s now a class to show us how to do the digging.  According an article in today’s Global Times, for 2000 RMB and ten hours of your life, you can learn everything you need to know about marrying a billionaire. Tips include “Go where the rich are: fancy bars, restaurants, ceremonies and private clubs” to “Don’t be sycophantic, no matter how much you love his money.”

(I have to wonder how effective the class is. If these tips are so useful, why are the teachers promoting a class rather than enjoying luxurious lives with rich husbands?)

Marrying a handsome rich man and living in a castle is a nearly universal romantic fairy tale for girls. We are raised on stories like Cinderella, a poor girl chosen by a prince who gets to live happily ever after.

However, for many Chinese girls marrying up is not merely a romantic dream but a pragmatic life choice. Imagine a 20-something girl who doesn’t have a good family background, little education, and few contacts. Normally she has to work very hard, starting from the bottom rung of the ladder, and spending years to achieve success and have a decent life.

Moreover, China is changing quickly. With so many Nouveau Riche types appearing every day, patience and hard work are no longer as appreciated by society. Quick success and quick cash are much more appealing. So we see young people quit school to work in coastal cities; Entrepreneurs invest their money in get-rich-quick real estate schemes rather than build companies for the future; and officials auction their power to the highest bidder.

Who can blame those young women for also wanting to play the game? They bet their lives on marrying a rich guy instead of developing their own careers because it seems like the easy and quick way to success.  Everybody’s doing it, why should they be left out?

But there’s a cost.

According to a 2010 report by the China Association of Marriage and Family Studies, cited in the Global Times article, a house, adequate savings and a good income are priorities for about 70 percent of the more than 32,000 women interviewed. My newly married cousin told me in person that she wouldn’t marry her husband if he didn’t have a house. She said she couldn’t stand the burden of a mortgage. I was shocked by her words and feel sad that their life-long bond was decided mainly based on economic considerations. Can they count on each other in the tough times?

Many men today feel that since the nature of marriage is money, they can treat marriage as a business arrangement.  One of my college classmates works in a department of the central government. She told me that many men she knew in the government and large state-owned companies believe that as long as they can bring money back home to their wives, it is totally fine for the husbands to have mistresses on the side.

And the men she was talking about were not billionaires; they are just ordinary employees with stable governmental jobs.  Having an affair is not something they are ashamed of; on the contrary it is even considered something of a symbol of success. Our society seems to be developing a tolerance for those who would betray their families and spouses.

Money can never buy happiness. Behind their shiny fancy lives, those wives and mistresses know their own pain. Without families to provide emotional support, individualism and materialism replace feelings of family and companionship. It might work when things are going well, but what happens when things turn bad? What will hold these families — or our society — together?