Dating TV in China: ‘Don’t talk to me unless you’re rich’

Dating TV in China: ‘Don’t talk to me unless you’re rich’

What does the proliferation of dating shows across China say about the values of the Middle Kingdom?
A Shanghai reality couple made in heaven... if the price is right.

“I'd rather be sitting inside a BMW and crying than sitting on a bicycle and smiling,” says Beijing girl Ma Nuo on the stage of China's most popular reality dating TV show, Fecheng Wurao (非诚勿扰, “If You Are the One”).

Since it first aired across China, Feicheng Wurao, which is produced by Jiangsu Satellite TV, one of China's regional commercial TV stations, has become one of the most popular shows in China. Following the successful model, a number of reality dating shows made by other regional stations have appeared on China's small screen. 

Hunan Satellite TV started airing Women Yuhui Ba (我们约会吧, “Let's Go on a Date”), Zhejiang Satellite TV has Wei Ai Xiang Qian Chong (为爱向前冲, “Go for Love”), and now Shanghai is also introducing its own version of reality dating TV. Problem is, to many it seems like these Chinese reality dating shows might be more about money than love.

Love and money 

Although the tight connection between love and money is not new (in China or anywhere else in the world), the public nature of the bold statements and actions of the xiang qin (相亲, reality dating shows) contestants is getting people across China talking.

You can see the show as a reflection of our society today. The reason we like watching them is because the real life conflicts are super sized on the shows— netizen from Nanjing

Recently, an ordinary looking businessman from Wenzhou who stood 160 cm tall appeared on the stage of Wei Ai Xiang Qian Chong. All the female contestants quickly snubbed him, literally turning their heads away. However, when the man started bragging about his 1.5 carat diamond ring, newly furnished apartment and his new Lamborghini SpA, the atmosphere started to change. On the same show, a female contestant named Lou Yao also made a bold statement saying, “Do not talk to me, unless you are rich.” So much for love conquerring all. 

With a TV line-up full of money-worshiping contestants -- particularly women -- looking for rich spouses, netizens have gotten fed up and have given one of the shows, Wei Ai Xiang Qian Chong, a creative new title with a simple characters tweak (although keeping the same pronunciation): 伪爱向钱冲 or "Fake Love, Go for the Money." To them this title is far more honest than the original. 

Although everyone loves poking fun at contestant on reality TV shows, people have started to question whether these money worshipers represent the values in today's Chinese society or have just been selected for ratings. 

A values debate

Cao Kefan (曹可凡), presenter of Shanghai's Dragon TV claims a large part of these dating shows is just staged acts. “All the contestants are actors or models, they were carefully selected to attend the show, and they have scripts,” says Cao in a Chinese TV conference. “It's not about really finding a match, but rather having a debate, a staged debate.” 

Cao continues that he believes that views expressed by these shows are meant to clash and don’t actually represent mainstream society values.

Writer Xie Yong (谢勇) agrees that the shows are promoting values that are traditionally disapproved of, such as money worshipping and disrespect for elders, traditional culture and loyalty. Nonetheless, Xie writes in his column on that none of these values is really below the average values of today's Chinese society.

“The women who appear on the shows have low tastes,” writes Xie, “but how can a country of tainted milk, drainage oil cooking, vaccine failures and fake history produce real princesses?” 

Although high ratings attest to the popularity of the shows, many in the audience still express their objection to the behaviors and values of the contestants. “You can see the show as a reflection of our society today,” writes a netizen from Nanjing on “The reason we like watching them is because the real life conflicts are super sized on the shows.” 

A comment by Sohu netizen SusAn expesses another idea shared among netizens. “On the shows they say a lot of things that people only dare to say in their dreams,” says SusAn.

While some believe that these shows represent new Chinese values, there are many ready to disagree.

“I believe the majority of people respect honesty and true love although there are many people who worship money in reality,” says a Sohu user from Guiyang. “And these TV shows are playing with people's minds and misleading the whole society's value.” 

Now a writer and art communicator based in Shanghai, Xing has also been covering the Shanghai's LGBT issues for local publications since the summer of 2009.

Read more about Xing Zhao