Seeking Arrangement app case a lesson for authorities
Published: May 29, 2018 06:28 PM

The notorious Seeking Arrangement website has gained a lot media attention in China recently after it was reported that its Chinese language app had reached the top of Apple's app store social networking category.

Chinese netizens expressed their anger and dissatisfaction toward the lack of supervision by authorities, who allowed it to successfully register as a free trade zone company in Shanghai.

With media digging deeper, more shady details were exposed about Seeking Arrangement. Shanghai authorities have finally taken action, announcing that no one can be contacted at the registered address of the company, and thus there is misconduct. The app no longer exists in any app store.

On Seeking Arrangement's certified Sina Weibo account, during its debut in Chinese social media, it claimed that it is a world-leading mutually beneficial sugar daddy/baby platform. It boasted that it had been reported on by world-class media including The New York Times, CNN and Forbes.

The way it promoted itself proves that its management preys on the Chinese public's passion to learn from Western practices by trusting famous media. It tried to fool the Chinese community by not revealing the media's true comments about it. At the same time, it was bold enough to directly use the controversial words "sugar daddy" and "sugar baby" in English.

In fact, it is easy to find that, when journalists from the above mentioned news outlets were reporting on the "success" of Seeking Arrangement, they focused more on the controversy of this lifestyle. But how many Chinese people would bother to read through an English-language investigative coverage.

In an article published in 2011 on the Huffington Post called "Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using Sugar Daddies To Pay Off Loan Debt," author Amanda M. Fairbanks asks "Is it prostitution?" Indeed, public and even sugar babies themselves are questioning whether sex for money is prostitution.

Even in countries and regions where prostitution is legal, questions and doubts toward websites of this kind continue. China is a country where the law prohibits any form of sex trade or prostitution. I shudder to think about the consequence of the popularity of this app, given China's large population.

Thanks to China's diligent grassroots forces, Seeking Arrangement was exposed and its operations suspended. But this case reveals loopholes in China's ability to conduct background checks and the supervision of the approval and registration process of foreign-invested companies. What's more, foreign talents themselves also need more background checks before being allowed into China.

Cases of unsavory foreigners with criminal records being hired by international schools in Shanghai and Beijing are a primary example.

Under the circumstance that the growing number of Chinese middle-class families are eager for their children to receive elite educations originating from Western countries like the UK and US, there is now a huge demand of foreign teaching professionals in China. Big salaries prove attractive to foreigners who face a stagnant economy in their home countries.

Newly established international schools in China lack experience in screening and vetting applicants. Anyone with white skin, hairy arms and a big nose are what the majority of Chinese parents love to see in their child's classroom, so schools hire them in an instant without making sure they are not convicted criminals or pedophiles in their own countries.

Many "bad guys" have been recruited as professional English teachers in expensive international schools as well as ordinary weekend language training centers in Shanghai, as has been reported in the local media over the years. Only when something terrible happens, such as little boys being molested or teenage girls being seduced, will these Westerners' backgrounds be checked. But at that point it is too late.

The Seeking Arrangement scandal and the continued recruitment of unvetted foreign teachers reflect the lack of sufficient supervision in foreign-related fields in China. More must be done.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration:Lu Ting/GT