China's New Sex Symbol: The Bureaucrat

In the category of the world’s sexiest politicians, China’s dour communist apparatchiks would seem to be far behind America’s legendary ladies’-men presidents and Europe’s bunga-bunga leaders. But a survey released in December by the All-China Women’s Federation found that a Middle Kingdom mandarin is the top pick for an ideal partner among Chinese women.

What’s the appeal? (It can’t be the ill-fitting suits.) It’s money, money, money. While government officials receive a modest salary—well under $1,000 a month—they can usually leverage their position for personal gain, often through shady means. A corrupt vice district head in Beijing was recently arrested for accumulating more than $6.5 million; in other cases the perks have reached into the hundreds of millions. And even for officials who aren’t skimming off the top, a government job (and the attendant legal perks) provides a level of security that’s quite desirable for China’s marriage-minded ladies, especially compared with a less stable position at a state-owned or private company.

There’s also the growing reputation of Chinese government officials as a particularly virile lot. China’s state-owned press often titillates readers with tales of bureaucratic sex scandals: in one major story last year, a provincial tobacco-bureau chief’s diary was leaked online, with page after page of prurient details about his trysts with young beauties (including fellow government employees). The public’s reaction was generally sympathetic to the cad. One prominent blogger maintained the bureau chief was a good official because he managed to spend some time with his wife despite the womanizing, took less than $10,000 in bribes, and didn’t visit prostitutes. In other words, a real catch. In a survey on the blogger’s site, almost all the more than 100,000 respondents thought the official should keep his job. That’s sex appeal—and popular appeal.