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Curse of the honey pot

Updated: 2016-07-11 07:24
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

Wang is one of a handful Chinese tycoons who have minted a persona that goes beyond the boardroom. He is known more for his audacious mountain-climbing than for his business dealings. He is admired - and criticized in the recent crisis - for his free-willed and unregimented lifestyle.

Tian may have many virtues, but wisdom about publicity is not one of them. She has tried to project the image of an independent woman, but her tactics are second-rate at best. For the first couple of years of the relationship, she would use every chance to associate herself with Wang and other celebrities.

When she publicized a photo of herself in a friendly pose with another business leader, which seemed to suggest they were old buddies, he explained that he had no choice because he "had to give face to Wang Shi".

When she called filmmaker Peter Chan her "male confidant", his wife openly laughed at her.

Tian was just too eager to elevate herself to the league of Wang and his peers. The stories she told about how Wang pursued her and she first turned him down have been taken with suspicion. That wasn't because a much more successful man could not have set his eyes on her, but because the story had too many touches of an incompetent romance writer.

Even if Wang had acted like a love-stricken teenage boy, wouldn't it be unwise for her to portray him as such?

There must have been a moment of self-reflection when it dawned on Tian that too close an association with Wang would not be good for her own image. So, she swore it off.

In recent years she refused to mention him under all circumstances. Instead, she touted the virtue of women's independence. Just a day before Wang's business crisis broke, she had a public speech streamed online during which she said, "I swear that in this lifetime I will not rely on men and I want to be stronger than men".

This feminist declaration received overwhelming jeers for its perceived hypocrisy. It sounded suspiciously like someone running away from a burning boat. Some said Tian should openly support Wang in his time of crisis. But that would also be playing the game of melodrama.

The speech was probably planned and taped weeks in advance. But the unfortunate timing has put Tian in an even worse position - not only a gold digger, but an ungrateful one at that.

It's not wrong for a woman to crave independently achieved success and romantic relationships with those more successful than they are. Tian's current dilemma is in part the result of age-old Chinese traditions that downgrade women to a default status of subordination, and in part self-wrought.

If she had regarded Wang and herself as absolute equals, there would have been no need to flaunt the relationship or the subsequent about-face. Almost all her public appearances are built on the premise that she is Wang's girlfriend - whether she likes it or not. To pretend otherwise is self-deception.

If she is serious, she should show - not just tell - that women can be independently successful despite their affiliation with more famous men.

Hillary Clinton has pulled it off. Why shouldn't other women? But I doubt Tian has that aptitude.

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