Xu Maiyong, former vice mayor of Hangzhou, who was executed on Tuesday, for having lots of real estate, lots of money, and lots of mistresses. Photo: CFP
She's a young, dark-haired beauty and he's rich, powerful and experienced. One can imagine how their story begins: a furtive glance, a handshake held too long, a quickened heartbeat, a first kiss, and before they know it a passionate and very illicit affair erupts.
The sugar daddy puts her up in an apartment, buys her a car and designer clothes. The mistress' only duty is to be at his beck and call.
They live flashy but covert lives on the edge of society and outside acceptable social mores. They can never be seen in the proper circles and the novelty inevitably wears off.
Their relationship almost certainly will not end well; many end in disaster.
Whether they've been jilted, mistreated, ignored, bored or just want more than their lover will give, many longtime, angry mistresses have exacted a measure of revenge that can bring both lovers' world crashing down.
China's history is full of men who have collected multiple mates - Emperors had dozens of concubines, and sociologists say the tradition seems to be making a revival, or perhaps it never disappeared.
The country, experts say, is once again filled with apparent want to be emperors, who use ill-begotten wealth to support an entire hougong (impeial harem) of lovers.
"The practice of monogamy is only 60 years old in China. Before that the number of mistresses a man possessed was an indicator of his success," Li Yinhe, one of China's most prominent sexologists, told the Global Times.
Incredibly, an expert committee drafting the marriage law claimed that 95 percent of China's corrupt officials kept one or more mistresses.
Older power broker seeks young women
The former minister of railways, Liu Zhijun was reported to have 18 mistresses, including actresses, nurses and train stewards. He apparently had a thing for women in uniform or those who could play the role.
The 58-year-old, balding, bespectacled Liu, lost his job last February and remains under investigation for "severe violations of discipline," according to the Xinhua New Agency.
While there are no details yet to show if Liu's mistresses played a role in his downfall, they certainly helped end Wang Shouye's run as a serial playboy.
Wang was the Deputy Commander of the Chinese Navy when he was arrested and eventually given a suspended death penalty for accepting bribes worth 160 million yuan. In 2006 when he was dismissed, Wang was a pudgy 62-year-old and it was his mistresses who set him up for his giant fall from grace.
Wang had a falling out with one of his mistresses, surnamed Jiang, whom he had made pregnant. He ordered her to quit her job and to keep the child a secret. She demanded 5 million yuan, the cost, she assumed, of raising their baby. Wang wouldn't agree to pay and so Jiang recruited two other of his mistresses to teach their sugar daddy a lesson. Together the three women wrote 58 letters over six years before Wang's corruption was finally exposed.
Although not every corrupt official gets tripped up by their mistresses, the kept women are often seen as a dishonest power broker's Achilles' heel.
"For anti-corruption investigators, mistresses often provide the breakthrough evidence," Li Chengyan, the director at Peking University's Center of Government Integrity Building, told the Global Times.
"Corrupt officials are often under huge pressure. They have to boast, talk empty talk and praise things that aren't praiseworthy. Their psyches are oppressed and they have no one to talk to," said Li who has researched fallen officials and their complicated love lives.
"They have power and influence, which they can easily exchange for sex. Their mistresses usually treat them with tenderness. Having mistresses is how they relieve the pressure," said Li.
Another researcher has little sympathy for mistresses. Shao Daosheng, a researcher specializing in corruption for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote on his blog that mistresses are "heartless." "The relationship between mistresses and their corrupt lovers is characterized by an exchange of sex for money and power. Officials provide mistresses with a haven and enjoyment," wrote Shao.
"Although these mistresses look gentle and considerate, once the officials fail to satisfy their appetite, they will immediately become whistle-blowers," Shao continued with what many might consider a mean-spirited generalization.
Li the sexologist warns that the belief that "beauties are dangerous" is wrong. "Mistresses are not the reason officials become corrupt. Often the two parties are jointly involved but they should be held individually responsible for their own deeds."
Not all mistresses are unhappy or hold a grudge. Perhaps tired of living in the shadows of someone else's life, some mistresses have made ill-advised, braggadocios announcements on the Internet.