This investigation like all research started with an idea gathered from anecdotes heard from many young women around Shanghai who were, good looking, successful, had money and were confident. However they all had one thing in common – they were not in a relationship of any kind. The hypothesis for this paper was simple: were girls here in Shanghai alone because the men wanted to find sub-dominant women who they did not feel threatened by in term of social status? The results clearly show that in fact men sought out woman of a lower social status to have a relationship with and so leaving the vast majority of successful girls alone and unfulfilled.
In order to substantiate the hypothesis a model of relationship symbiosis was devised in order to test women and men’s attitudes to the model and if they agreed with the proposal. This model was a simple correlation of social status to symbiosis between couples. In China many men seek a lower status woman as a way of feeling in control of the relationship through money, status, family and intelligence. Therefore they tend to seek and relate to women one step below them on the social scale. Women on the other hand are looking for a man for, security, status, home-making and propagation i.e. one step at least up from their social status.
If a woman earns more income than the man, has a higher social status or property then he feels he will lose face in front of his family, work colleagues and friends. They will feel he cannot provide for her or show a higher level of achievement. They also cannot cope with a woman of more intelligence, often leading to arguments that they cannot win against a better educated opponent. China is a highly judgemental society were social comparison not only thrives here but positively rules peoples lives in trying to live up to and match social expectations of others.
Brown (1986) suggested that social equity theory shows that people in general look for rewards, exchanges and most of all the amount of investment in a relationship. This is the situation where couples add up what they invest in a relationship such as, who does what tasks, who is the more caring, loving, sensitive, who takes care of things, financially, family or domestic. In this situation couples are looking for a reward over the cost of the relationship in the form of profit. Thibaut and Kelley (1959) went further than Brown to suggest that couples also compare themselves to others in relationships to see how they measure up and so decide if you would be better off in a different relationship somewhere else. In China this is certainly the way things appear to the outsider looking inward at the society and its credo. Although both of the above theories seem to suggest people as basically selfish, in that they are only interested in their immediate rewards, there are those who make sacrifices in the hope of future rewards, such as the daughter who looks after her aging parents in the thought that when they are gone she can have her own life. This is as Eric Berne (1960’s T.A.) would say an After-Script, that a person will wait for happiness in the future by a sacrifice today. The alternative as Berne sees it is the Until-Script in which until you do something you cannot be happy. For example until you have a successful career you cannot spend time being in a loving relationship.
The model that was shown to Chinese participants, the research was straight forward and kept very simple. The model was shown to adult classes of Chinese students learning business English in many areas around Shanghai. Almost all were single men and women of ages 20 through to 35. After a short introduction to the concept the model was drawn on the white-board in simple format as shown below:
An explanation was given then as to the scenario in the model as follows;
«A» men look for «B» women because they can control them, dominate them and have a higher social status.
«B» men do the same thing looking for «C» women.
«C» men have a hard time finding suitable women and often looked for uneducated country girls or poor family city girls.
«B» women seek «A» men in order to find social status, security and support for her family in the future through marriage to the «A» man.
«C» women seek «B» men for the same reasons. However a «C» woman dreams of an «A» man but is unlikely to attract them.
«A» woman finds «A» men too weak, unsupportive of their ambitions and afraid of their power and social status – and therefore end up alone with few suitable possible mates. «A» women can be attracted to foreign men who do not have the same social worries as Chinese men. The Chinese women being highly educated mostly speaking English well are able to communicate with foreigners in Shanghai, who are often businessmen or highly educated teachers or professors.
The participants where then asked to discuss the merits of the model, give examples from their own lives and whether they agreed with the over-all concept bearing in mind people are individuals and that the model is merely a reflection of traditional values, Chinese culture and social mores of the current situation in Shanghai as of 2008.
Free voting was then encouraged as to the validity of the model from the participant’s perspective. (There is of course through the explanation in step two some leading of the participants in the model’s view, however the researcher believes this was not enough for the participants to be mis-led when asked to vote from their own opinion as to whether they agreed with the model’s concepts.)
At the end of each presentation most of the participants voted in support of the model (95%) – those who objected did so not because they thought the model wrong but in fact from personal experience of not having been in a relationship or that they hoped the model was in fact wrong and sought hope in that their own future relationships would be based on more romantic sentiments than the model suggested. In fact the model ignored «love» as a variable as in Chinese society this is considered unimportant when choosing a possible mate or marital partner for the future. The women who participated identified most closely with the model but the men often found that they wanted to disagree but when thinking about their own relationships found the model in fact had predicted their own current situation.
The results clearly show how difficult it is for an «A» girl, educated, successful, and glamorous in Shanghai to attract a suitable man to offer her support, equal status and long term commitment. The «B» and «C» girls are in fact more likely to have boyfriends and to attracted suitable husbands in the short term. According to Winch (1958) happy marriages are about fulfilling each others needs, even if this means an unequal partnership where one dominates and the other is dependent in nature. This complementary view of relationships was seen clearly by Berne (1960’s) in the theory of Transactional Analysis in which symbiosis in relationships was the most common factor. That is women are looking for a man to look after them and men want a woman to look after. Therefore «A» women in particular in China lose out to this idea. Chinese men do not want a more successful woman than themselves or one that has a higher social status that may embarrass them to their family and friends.
Many of the «A» girls that saw the model identified with the sentiments expressed in the model and often quoted anecdotal evidence to support the model from their own failed relationships where social status was the major issue in the break-up of the romance. Also many agreed that foreign men were a good choice for them sometimes, in the fact they are less concerned with social status and encouraged success and ambition in the woman’s career and life. This non-judgemental approach gave the women the support they feel they needed in their high pressure jobs and lifestyle.
Those who identified themselves as possible «B» women agreed they sought high social males as mates and looked first for security and a good future for themselves and their families. Under the one-baby policy of China this has created a great fear amongst young women that they must find a suitable husband to support their families in old age.
There were few «C» women in the participants mainly due to their lower status and education and are not likely to turn up in business English classes. Most «C» girls work as waitresses, shop-girls, cleaners and similar low-paid, low-status work.
There is a tendency to marry a person of a similar age in China, much more so than in Western countries where women more often seek men a few years older than themselves. This could in China be a contributory factor in the failure of relationships as the men are often less mature, socially and empathetically than the girls they are with. In this variable the likelihood of symbiosis is low and eventually leading to unhappy relationships based on unequal maturity between the couples.
The sad part of this ABC model in Shanghai is that it may be seen in other big cities in China from Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou to Hong Kong in that successful, powerful and dominant women find it hard to find suitable men to encourage, support and love them for who they are; that is modern women with their sites set on ambition and wealth. The «A» girl’s social status is assured through her education, dedication and fashionable demeanour.
Many of the «A» girls admitted loneliness, frustration and disappointment in many of their failed relationships with men who are only interested in their own social status and saving face in Chinese society and culture. While we may think of this situation as sad, many of the actual woman took a positive view in that they had freedom to pursue their career, could determine their own life-style and enjoy autonomy without a man telling them what they should do and should not do in their daily lives.
In the future the model will be continued to be shown in classes and see if over time the results change in line with more modern thinking about success in women in China and a more mature attitude change in the men in seeing a woman successful and ambitious is a thing to be proud of not embarrassed by.
Gross R. (2005) Psychology 4th Ed. The Science of Mind & Behaviour. Pgs. 412/413. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers.
Brown R. (1986) Social Psychology 2nd Ed. New York Free Press Publishers.
Thibaut JW & Kelley HH (1959) The Social Psychology of Groups. New York, Wiley Publishers.
Winch RF (1958) Mate Selection, A Study of Complimentary Needs. New York Harper Publishers.
Berne E. (1960’s) Various publications for Transactional Analysis.
Las Camisetas de fútbol de adidas se encuentran entre las preferidas de muchos equipos. Descubre por qué visitando nuestra colección en la web. by Stephen F. Myler