HONG KONG — In a country where it seems that just about every corrupt male official keeps one or two mistresses — or 18 of them — average citizens take pleasure watching the philanderers occasionally get their comeuppance.
Known in China as “xiao san” (little third) or “ernai” (second woman), extracurricular lovers have become so ubiquitous among Communist Party politicos that some claim their love nests are driving up Beijing real-estate prices.
According to a 2013 Renmin University study of officials who'd been punished for corruption, 95 percent were found to have had affairs, while 60 percent kept a steady mistress.
Inevitably, of course, most mistresses end up getting jilted or dumped. Now, thanks to social media, spurned mistresses are getting revenge online, and their tales have become the subject of widespread gossip.
Over the last year, many officials have discovered that hell hath no fury like a Chinese mistress scorned.
Just ask Fan Yue, the former deputy director of the State Archives Administration — the department that looks after millions of Communist Party documents, a job as interesting as it sounds.
For four years, Fan kept up an expensive dalliance with a young TV anchor, Ji Yingnan. Ji, who was 21 years old when they began “dating,” received a $1000-per-day allowance, a new Audi, and a white Porsche from her bespectacled lover.
When Fan decided to break it off — after finally admitting to Ji that he was already married — like many jilted Chinese mistresses, she posted embarrassing photos online.
In a series of half boasting, half confessional entries on her Sina Weibo blog, Ji claimed that her paramour, a mid-level bureaucrat on a relatively modest salary, had given her more than 10 million yuan ($1.64 million) during their years together.
Fan was promptly sacked.
He’s not the only one to get burned by a vengeful ex.
There’s Liu Tienan, deputy chairman of the economic planning department. His spurned mistress told a journalist that Liu had defrauded state-owned banks out of $200 million. She also disclosed that Liu had inflated his academic credentials.
And there’s Lei Zhengfu, the toadlike Chongqing district party chief, whose career imploded after a sex tape went viral showing him with an 18-year-old woman.
And then there’s the Shandong official whose handwritten pledge to divorce his wife and marry his mistress mysteriously found its way onto the internet. Nobody knows who leaked it, but the fact that he did not keep his promise to the mistress may provide a clue.
Other episodes smack of sexual harassment. Consider the sad case of the TV journalist who accused a state-company boss of coercing her into an abusive sexual relationship that lasted for years. She went public only after the official, Sun Dejiang, threatened to sue her over a loan she could not repay.
“I would never put myself in the spotlight like this unless I was forced to," she said.
Of course, these revelations alone aren’t enough to rein in China’s systemic corruption. As an editorial in the People’s Daily said, “Some people have said that the anti-corruption departments at all levels perform worse than the mistresses. Although it’s a joke, it reflects a serious question: Whom should the anti-corruption effort depend on?”
Chairman Xi Jinping has made anti-corruption reform a central plank of his administration. Vowing to go after the "tigers" — top officials — as well as the lowlier "flies," he has so far shown a willingness to punish some of the most egregious offenders. But for the ones he misses, there’s always a jilted xiaosan ready to step in to spill their corrupt lovers’ secrets.