The names Zhang Muyi and “Miki” were both trending on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, earlier today as the couple announced their relationship online. The twist? Singer Zhang (@张木易 ) just happens to be 12 years older than 12-year-old child model Miki (@MIKI加拿大的天使 ).
On Weibo, both the Chinese Zhang and the Canadian Miki declared their love repeatedly and posted pictures of themselves frolicking on the beach, snuggling on a couch, and playing a duet on the piano (see below). Explained @直播南京官方版, “Akama Miki, Canadian, born in September of 2000, was winner of the 2009 National New Silk Road Child Modeling Competition. In 2012 she began to openly date singer Zhang Muyi. Akama said on her Weibo [page] that when she is 16, she will marry him. In most Canadian provinces, with parental permission, 16 year olds can marry. This world is too crazy, if you can’t find a guy to marry you soon, even girls born after 2000 will have husbands!”
Yet many also congratulated the two. Said @YY渔, “Although I don’t think this is right, if this isn’t some kind of publicity stunt, I hope you can keep this love alive! Love is truest when you’re young! I hope that that boy can do it too! I wish you happiness!” Most of the thousands of comments, however, were unfavorable—but often not in the manner one might expect.
Tellingly, talk often shifted away from Zhang and Miki, and toward the larger issue of women and relationships. Said @魔鬼心计学, “A girl born after 2000 is getting married. Those of you born in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s: What do you have to say for yourself?” Wondered @Lazy的天涯, “How many girls born in the ‘90’s will find it hard to sleep at night, after getting this news?” The implication was that a woman should land a man as soon as possible to avoid competition from younger women–even if those younger women are underage girls.
Inevitably, conversation about China’s shengnu, or “leftover women,” lurked in the background. Many women left comments such as @猪头宝曈’s: “How do you think this makes an ‘80’s ‘leftover woman’ like me feel??”
As Leta Hong Fincher wrote in a recent post for the Ms. Magazine blog, there is a prevalent and widely believed myth in China that, despite the country’s male-skewed sex-ratio imbalance, women in their late twenties and beyond are spinsters for whom husband-landing is all but impossible. Many women are willing to compromise, make sacrifices, and settle for less as a result of baseless fears of life-long loneliness, combined with a healthy dose of familial and societal pressure to marry.
Netizen reaction to this bizarre affair shows that in China, and no doubt elsewhere, youth and submissiveness in women are still highly sought after. For many netizens, the focus of Zhang/Miki-related chat was the older women who were being “robbed”–a word that cropped up in many comments–instead of the fact that a young girl was arguably being taken advantage of. The fact that women in their 20’s and 30’s viewed Miki as a rival, rather than a victim, shows just how “robbed” of choice and chance many Chinese women truly feel.