Girl About Globe | Squire for hire

Linda Kennedy

China’s rented boyfriends have a role in eroding Donald Trump’s support base. Here’s how.

During Chinese New Year, millions of workers travel home to their families, and some singles put safeguards in place. Those Tiger Moms and Dads back in the village are tenacious with questions: ‘why aren’t you married, or at least engaged?’ Any female over 27 in China gets stigmatized as a ‘leftover woman’ and so, the practice of leasing a short-term lunar love has sprung up. Before Chinese New Year, more than 300 boyfriend rental adverts were on Taobao, the online shopping platform. China’s independent dames could surf, hire a squire and then present their ‘faux beau’ in the village, after using the journey as tutorial time to learn about each other and devise a relationship history. Tiger Mom/Dad is satisfied, the family visit goes well, the gent-for-rent gains cash without losing honour (a rented partner will stay the night but most stipulate ‘no special services’), and the slowing Chinese economy has some stimulus.

This custom is recent but not new. What makes it more interesting still this year is the small print reported in some of the contracts.  The daily rate for a rented boyfriend advertising on Taobao ranged from about RMB800 to RMB2,000. But, note, that figure was just to show up. Many rented boyfriends charge extra for specific activities. Some of the additional charges: shopping cost an extra RMB15 per hour; watching a movie 10 extra (double that for a horror film); and drinking cost an additional 50 per 100 millilitres of wine. (A male merlot tax? In reality, it would be charging for enduring the hangovers, because of the hard drinking expectation placed on men at Chinese banquets. Anyway, this is one supplement the ‘girlfriend’ should be happy to pay, as the more her ‘boyfriend’ drinks, the likelier he is to blurt out his rented Romeo status. Re which: can she get a refund for any errors that blow her cover?  Does he offer insurance?)

The additional price list is what inspired me to see the global potential in this Lunar New Year trend. It’s currently very clear that Donald Trump isn’t one for looking East, or indeed anywhere outside the US, to discover new customs, but I wonder if there is something in this rental model that could work in America. Specifically in rust-belt Trump-voting bastions.   

There are plenty of women looking for love in the USA. How about unemployed white male non-college-educated Trump voters rent themselves out to these women to go shopping, or as company for a cocktail? (Consumption of pink drinks would presumably carry a higher rate, in a macho reimagining of the scale of extras.) It would be money for said young man. And a new place in the world – he might not have an education but he’s now a bachelor in economics.

Why, though, would American women pay to do this? The obvious immediate benefits are to have someone to carry the shopping bags, and to stand in the queue at the bar. But there’s a longer-term angle here.

Unemployed male voters are a crucial part of Trump’s support. If rented out as described, they would get used to a woman as the boss (or ‘big gun’, their real turn-on), realize ‘hey it’s not so bad’, and gradually become less mentally opposed to whichever woman one day tries to do what Hillary Clinton couldn’t.

Trump can’t complain – it’s ‘hiring American’.

Asia, its feathers ruffled after Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, feels flattered.

And a new global hashtag is born: less #girlboss, more #girlfriendboss.

Categories Opinion