Minghui Zheng

Thanks to new technology Chinese bachelors can find their future spouse on online marketplaces. But their list of demands is remarkably traditional: ‘Do you have an apartment and a car?’ asks a woman. ‘Yes, but are you still virgin?’ replies the man.

Rent a Partner

The conversation you’re hearing between a young Chinese man and woman was posted on a rent-a-partner forum, a place where, fittingly, partners can be rented. This service originated in 2012 on the popular Chinese marketplace Taobao. Similar services followed suit. In the background we see video footage of the Chinese megacity Shenzhen, the first special economic zone in China and home to twelve million people.

In another part of Rent a Partner (2018), Minghui Zheng (China, 1987), student at the art academy FAMU in Prague, focuses on the ambiguous morale displayed in these new online services. She shows us an online banking loan advertisement using the image of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. His ideas about hierarchy and family loyalty have been the foundation of Chinese society for centuries. Mixed in the images are price lists from rent-a-partner websites.

Users of these services are chatting about love-transactions: an apartment and a car for a relationship. But they also stick to traditional ideals. A man wants to find a devout woman, a woman wants a man who can support her with a car and house.