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The good, the bad and the ugly of love

By Anastasia Novobranova  (Global Times)

14:07, November 13, 2012

(Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT)

They say beauty is only skin deep, but try telling that to Feng Jian. Late last month, it was reported the man from North China had successfully divorced and sued his wife for $120,000 for being ugly, after the latter spent $100,000 on cosmetic surgery before the couple married. The ruse was only up after the couple had what Feng described an "incredibly ugly" baby.

While many Web users in China have shown support for Feng and slandered his surgically modified ex-wife, little has been said of the tiny victim in the spat - the "incredibly ugly" baby, who is now famous yet fatherless.

Babies like this are the products of business deals, good guanxi (personal connections) and successful matchmaking rather than an accord of hearts. "I married my wife out of love," claimed Feng, who ultimately chose money over a happy family.

While many foreign readers commenting on the story, which was widely reported online, questioned how such a case could be accepted by a Chinese court, let alone ruled in favor of the plaintiff, many of us in China are hardly surprised. Chinese culture has long attached importance to family, but the impact of modernization has tainted personal relationships.

Earlier this year, a Beijing nightclub organized an event for China's 32 wealthiest bachelors aged between 31 and 55. Around 2,700 potential brides aged between 20 and 47 registered for the event, before enduring a grueling process to determine the best candidates.

But it's not only cashed-up men who enjoy such wooing. Thirty-six single female Chinese millionaires were also given similar treatment in July, when dating start-up launched a campaign to assist the rich women in their quest for suitable suitors.

For singles who don't have millions of yuan to flaunt, they must instead rely on their parents to post their classifieds in parks. There are also mass blind dates organized on the eve of the Qixi Festival, better known as China's Valentine's Day, that attract tens of thousands in major cities each year.

Singles' clubs and dating websites are extremely popular in China, and profit on those desperate to fall in love. They charge membership and registration fees and offer additional services, such as photo sharing and online messaging, to those willing to fork out extra money. Dating is now a cutthroat industry in the Middle Kingdom.

Love in China does not always blossom naturally. Reasons for this are numerous, including the disproportionate male-female ratio, individuals' intense work schedules, growing pressure from aging parents, increasing income disparity and, as proven in Feng's case, strict demands for physical beauty.

Men are expected to own a car and an apartment, while women should be tall, good looking and aged under 30. Given these circumstances, you hardly can blame Feng's ex-wife for investing in plastic surgery; she no doubt viewed it as her pathway to happiness.

As Beijing singles strive for a happy marriage by exhausting dating websites, singles' clubs, blind date events and pick-up schools, the notion of love per se has become irrelevant. How many more "incredibly ugly" babies can we expect in the future?

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