Love hurts when rich parents calculate cost

By Yu Ran (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-31 07:10
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Youngsters feel the pain as partners vetted to protect interests. Yu Ran reports from Shanghai.

On the outside, Wang Yue looks like a man who has it all: he drives a smart BMW car, he wears sharp Armani suits and he carries designer Gucci bags.

Yet, there is one thing he cannot have - the woman he loves. The 26-year-old was forced by his wealthy Shanghai family to split from his girlfriend of four years "because we're not a good match", or in other words, because she came from a poor background.

Love hurts when rich parents calculate cost

Like in the West, rich Chinese parents have become increasingly involved in their children's love lives, mostly to protect their assets from what sociologists and lawyers say is a "growing culture of materialism".

With the demand for prenuptial agreements rising nationwide, and not just among the rich, many fuerdai - the Chinese term for children born to powerful families - are starting to feel the pressure.

"I don't think I'm lucky enough to meet someone my parents and I both like, so I'd rather stay single," said Wang, who manages a five-star hotel in the metropolis.

"I'm going to concentrate on my work instead. It's the best solution for all of us."

According to the fuerdai who talked to China Daily about their experiences, China's first generation of self-made millionaires are particularly concerned about their children dating people raised in the countryside.

Wang, whose father owns several hotels and holiday resorts and whose mother is a real estate investor, said his parents were "visibly disgusted" when they met his ex, Xiao Mo.

"She is just an ordinary girl from a small town in Sichuan province," he said, his eyes lighting up as explained how they met while studying at Wuhan University in Hubei province. "We saw each other at a party of a mutual friend. It was love at first sight," he said, smiling.

His parents did not share his enthusiasm. "I never expected such an intense reaction," said Wang, recalling the time he took Xiao to meet his parents in the summer of 2007. "When they heard about her background, they were so disappointed. They warned me that the relationship would never work out."

In 2009, after years of fighting, Wang decided to break up with Xiao, who by then had moved back to Sichuan. The final straw had been when his parents threatened to sever financial ties with the couple if they married.

"My parents put too much pressure on us, just because I'm rich," he added.

For money or love?

Faced with the prospect of their child marrying someone "unsuitable", wealthy parents usually resort to one of two options: engineer a breakup or demand a prenuptial agreement.

With inheritances worth billions of yuan at stake, "prenups" are designed to prevent fuerdai from falling prey to gold-diggers.

"Wealthy people are very protective of what they have because they have suffered hard times to make it and want to keep it for the next generation," said professor Zhang Zhenyu at the Shanghai Psychological Society. "These parents have a lot of influence over their children's choices and are extremely dubious about the people they date.

"They suspect that most of them are only after money."

In fact, judging by a three-month study to measure the attitudes of almost 1,000 students in South China's Guangdong province, they have good reason to be cautious.

Roughly 60 percent of females polled by researchers with the Women's Federation of Guangzhou admitted they want to marry a fuerdai who stands to inherit a large sum of money from his parents. More than half of male respondents shared the same sentiment.

"Many college students are more than willing to find love with people from rich families as they want to have a comfortable life without working too hard for it," said Liu Shuqian, a professor of ethics at Guangzhou University.

Zhao Han, chief executive of a Guangzhou cosmetics group with more than 500 million yuan ($75.5 million) in assets, said she was fearful when her daughter Deng Tingting went to study in New Zealand in 2004.

"Being far from home, I was really worried that she would be cheated by someone as she has been spoiled and is naive," she said.

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