My Wife, the Millionaire....

When I first met my wife in the 90’s she lived in a 5th floor nondescript apartment building reserved for high ranking officials.  There was no elevator.   Yet lived by foot only 7 minutes or so from Westlake in Hangzhou.  The building itself had a covered, enclosed bicycle garage.   The family an actual working phone.  The year was 1991.

Soon after marriage we had a crisis on our hands.  The rumor was that the government was going to raze the building (which they eventually did).   The parents wanted to buy a home, because by ’96 apartment blocks were beginning to rise in Hangzhou.   The Taiwanese, and overseas Chinese in particular (Indonesia, Malaysia) were beginning to see this and suddenly Hangzhou was being looked upon as a nice place to have a 2nd home.  That is, the wealthy Chinese were all flocking to the defacto retirement getaway of Mao (whose villa by the way, unlike that of Lin Biao, still hasn’t been opened to the public.  I tried to bike in once when I was a student, as nonchalantly as possible, and the guards stopped me.)

China Wife’s parents were freaking out.  Quite frankly, they were worried of being kicked out with no place to go.  Simple as that.  The government offered them $10,000 for their place.  They took it.  And well, the rest is history.

It was a one bath, two bedroom, plus an office.  From memory it was probably around 90 meters or 900 square feet.  I’d say for $10 grand, the Chinese government got a good deal.  They probably in turn “sold” the land for a higher number. 

From there China Wife’s parents bought an apartment, of which I contributed 20% of the money for the deposit (which my wife claims was paid back, but who knows?)   But I believe they flipped it before moving in, and then over a decade ago bought another apartment. Yet upon my visiting I decided it was in a decidedly more run down location.  The parents claimed it was only a ten minute walk from Westlake, but I can tell you that’s bullshit.  However, by bus it’s only 2 stops away.  Fair enough. 

Hangzhou today has changed markedly in three ways.  It is the host of Alibaba, the influx of “outsiders” is so severe that the Hangzhou dialect is no longer as prevalent as it used to be(especially with taxi drivers), and the cost of real estate is ten times beyond the cost of maddening.  More than most cities, Hangzhou has suffered from its fame as both a scenic destination and a well known center of Chinese History.  Its temples are at all times of the day, uber crowded with out of town peasants and travel groups. 

Still, despite its well known rule banning factories within the city limits, the overwhelming buildup of China’s manufacturing base in and around Hangzhou has still left a mark.   Unlike twenty odd years ago, one can now hardly see across the lake to the green hills beyond except on a really good day.

The inlaws today have a 170 square meter apartment.  they have two solid bedrooms, two baths, an extremely large living room, a fair sized balcony and a decent sized office that the father in law uses as his bedroom(he sleeps on the floor), whenever their glorious son in law(that’s me!) arrives.  

And they have an elevator.

If one opens the window to below one can see a fairly ugly parking lot.  That’s it.  In sum, nothing special about this location.  Except that it’s in Hangzhou.  And as for Westlake itself?  Well, I’m here to tell you on any given day the well laid out concrete banks of Hangzhou continue to be filled with lovers, locals out for a simple stroll, and of course those damn flag waving tour guides.  It’s as busy as Tiananmen or the Forbidden Palace.   It’s a big time tourist attraction. 

Upon buying the apartment the inlaws promptly put their daughter’s name on the note.  (sweet!) Because since this apartment has been bought it has gone up in value 7 times.  (I wish I could say something cool like “quintupled”, but I just don’t the phrase for “7”)

At first we oohed and ahhed when it doubled.  Then tripled.  Crazy!

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And I still am. 

Of course in legalese, the apartment does not really “belong” to China Wife.  All property belongs to the state.  And all “owners” of housing have “only” a 70 year lease.  

China Wife only recently in an unguarded moment of hers told me the per square meter value of the property.   I calculated it at 1.5 million dollars.  Contrast this with a 100 sq meter apartment in the middle of Shenzhen at less than $1 million USD. 

I’ve told you all(all 12 of you) that my wife greatly regrets missing out on the China boom.  In short, her father was a generation too soon.  If he had retired a generation later, he’d be a millionaire many times over.   Recently one of my Chinese friends retorted “but he’d be in jail”, which is something I’ve uttered a few times as well. 

Well, turns out all that doesn’t matter. 

One day China Wife came home talking about how “we” should by a condo.  She’d obviously been talking to her China Friends.  It irritates me so when her friends have more sway over our family decisionmaking then I do.   Which is easy when you live with a person so keen to keep up with the Joneses’.

I heard it out, then said “no”.    I was politely blunt. 

We don’t have the money I need to plan for the kids’ tuition, etc.  All the usual excuses.

But China Wife insisted. 

Then she announced her parents would buy the condo.

And like any good honest Chinese, they would pay for it in cash.   


It would only be $130 grand or so.   I was astounded to hear this from China Wife.  After all, where would her parents get the money?

To this day, I consider China Wife’s father to be the most honest Chinese government official  I’ve ever met.  His breed is quickly going the way of Beijing’s City Walls.  Within a decade or so his Kind will be gone, and people will reminisce about his ilk in the history books.

(Quite some time ago I wrote a post about a particular corruption case in China before the rise of Deng.  Here it is. )

Still, when China Wife told me this, my first thought wasn’t “where will they get the money?”, but “how dare you try and shame me by getting your parents, of such modest means, to spend so far above their budget just to satisfy a selfish need of yours!”

China Wife calmly looked me in the eye and said,

“Of course they will pay in cash.”

Why do we love Chinese Consumers again?  

It took me a bit to process this information.   Today, with the crazy rise of real estate in China, many an undeserving person is wealthy beyond their dreams, all before they complete their first year of high school.  I mention again my wife’s best friend in Shenzhen.  Their house has “only” quadrupled in value, but they’ve also bought a house in semi-nearby Huizhou, which itself has doubled in value, all without going through the hassle of actually “renovating” it.  That is, not laying down carpet, or painting the walls, or even turning on the power. 

This lady along with her husband have long since fallen out of love with each other, yet are bound to each other by their only child.  A very smart, mature young lady, that will someday be very disinclined to start and develop a career on her own.   And there are millions of other Chinese Kids just like her.   Simply waiting for the peach to fall from the tree.

To this day, I still wonder how China Wife’s parents have the means to pay for a condo in cash.   And I do not have an answer for that.  Initially, my impression of my father in law took a hit.  But then  I realized the money couldn’t have come from him.  He simply retired too early.   Yet I didn’t pry.   But now I can’t help but wondering exactly how much money do my China inlaws have? 

I can’t help but contrast them with my own parents.  My father hasn’t owned a house in decades, and only collects a meager pension.   Still I don’t pry.  The note is in China Wife’s name.   She claims some day we will use it to pay for our children’s tuition.  I don’t know.   I wonder what else China Wife’s parents have up their sleeve.   I conservatively estimate my wife’s parents are worth around $2 million.   But who knows?

Unfortunately, according to Chinese law, so I’m told, one cannot pass property down to family.  So eventually my wife will have to sell the property, probably in her 80’s or something.  As such, my kids are already taken care of.  I think.

Still, my wife has already announced come her 60’s she will be spending 6 months in Hangzhou and 6 months in America. 

Meanwhile I struggle with my IRA, my 401(American retirement accounts).   I have 8 years of continuous college tuition just around the corner and well, I’m freaking out.  I’ve prepared.  For them.  But not as well for myself.  Unfortunately we live in an age where one family in America with both parents working only just cuts it for expenses and then a bit more.   An upper middle class nightmare where ones’ kids go to all the proper schools, and check off all the boxes, with the aim of getting into some sort of college that will be a springboard worthy of the effort for future success. 

Slowly but surely, like the noose millimeter by millimeter tightening around one’s neck, I find myself working not for enjoyment or fulfillment but for the sole purpose of ensuring I can afford what’s coming less than a thousand days from now.   As such qualities I once had in abundance, such as ambition, and the need for self fulfillment are slowly crowded to the wayside.   Conformity has begun to creep in.  It’s inexorable grip slowly tightening around my soul. 

Meanwhile I can’t help but wondering what else does China Wife’s Family have up its sleeve?


  1. I have really got a lot out of reading your blog recently. I am in somewhat of a similar situation. I spent 7 years in China in a variety of different cities. I worked a humble job while over there, but saved enough to purchase an apartment for myself back home. I married an only child who is about 6 years apart in age from me. The trouble started after the marriage. She comes from somewhat of a broken home with her father leaving her at a young age and her mother taking the reigns from there. Many boyfriends after and a step father did come along. Her mother is tyrannical in the running of the money in the house and argued constantly about taking control of my wife and my money. I refused. This continued on until a fight erupted about inheritance. I calmly said I didn't care about her money and she could shove it up her ass. My wife didn't go down this path unfortunately and it created a rift between her and I. We are now working on it and we are living in my home country. Her mother still tries to rule from a far. My wife and I spoke together and have decided not to talk to her about any financial matters in our future. Fortunately (somewhat) myself and my family have money and do not need to take the crap from some communist party officials daughter (my mother in law) who received a few apartments once her house was demolished. The ugliness of modern China?

    1. Ughh! The ugliness of another domineering mother in law I'm afraid. You committed the same deadly sin I did, ie marry an only child. And to put salt in the wound, yours seems to be a well off one at that.

      I've never, ever talked about financial matters with my inlaws. I still fully expect to pay for my children's own college tuition, and it has never ONCE crossed my mind to ask for help nor will it. My kids will both be much better off in their twenties than I ever was. One thing I learned though is this: daughter always chooses mom over husband, even when no one asks her to made a choice. No respecting laowai would ever ask for that choice, but my wife has on her own initiative told me, her parents are more important then me.

      Your wife and mom are very close, it sounds like, just like mine are. This is an unbreakable bond you should not try and weaken. When you have children your mother in law will be worth her weight in gold. But you have to understand Chinese mother in laws are extremely culturally insensitive and ignorant. You are a guest in your own house and you are her bitch to boot. She is Master of every realm she walks into. Your wife will be like mine and wilt before her mother, never standing up for you. You have one thing going for you though, that is your family has money, too. Thus you won't lose face. My family is piss poor, and because my family is not deemed worthy of marrying someone of my wife's status, I will forever be lacked down upon by my wife's family. You can escape that. If your family has a nice house, I'd highly recommend taking Mother in Law to that house, to shut her up. I really hate to put it in such stark terms but it's true. The Chinese parents only care about how much fucking money you have. If you have it, you can stand tall and they will give you that leeway. If you don't, then you will be expected to fall in line. My problem is despite my class background I did not fall in line, and that has greatly pissed off the mother in law.

      Chinese mother in law keeps her life interesting by looking out for her daughter's financial interests. That means taking yours and keeping theirs. My family is so poor, I have nothing they can take. And that pisses them off all the more!

      Bottom line you gotta be respected. If you feel you are not ever gonna be respected in your own house, than why have kids? Can you live in a house with a woman for 20 more years like I've done being judged purely and solely by how much money you make? With a nagging ass mother in law? Can you handle that? Do you think it's ok(like more than a few of my readers do) to fucking quit and leave with kids in junior high?

      You gotta decide now before you have kids what to do. I've argued before and will again, a laowai is many multiples happier with a divorced or middle aged Chinese woman. These women feel like they've won the lottery when they find someone like you and the damn Chinese mother in law loves you for marrying her daughter!

      If you've already got kids, than my above advice is obviously too late....

      Much thx for reading the blog!

    2. Thanks for the reply.

      Yes I understand the one child thing having dated divorced women in China.

      Fortunately as you said money carries weight in China. The only reason we have ever gone into talking financially with my inlaws (I didn't want to) is that they were losing sway in the battle of influence. My family is far wealthier than hers and it shows. It didn't take just her seeing a big house to shut up, it took a lot more.

      We had to subjugate her. We made her lose face and basically crushed her. It was a difficult thing to do but I have one the respect of my wife for doing things (incredibly!).

      When we returned to my homecountry the parents in law invited themselves for 3 months to stay. After seeing my families wealth they realised that they would not hwav much sway in any of out decisions. The competition was on; food, offers of this and that were thrown our way from MIL, a better life in China etc.

      We in no uncertain terms said this would not be happening. We relegated her to a lower position in the family rung here (a united front on my families part) that she lost so much face she wanted to cut her visit short.

      A very difficult thing for my wife to witness but she has backed me on this. MIL is no longer the master of every realm she walks into and was tip toeing around the house throughout her visit here. As I said not "the nice guy" thing to do, but I realised it had to be done for as you put it "you are her bitch". Or so she likes to think anyway.

      So now we have taken her power away and she understood she was dealing with bigger fish than herself. I agree with you Chinese MIL are extremely ignorant and culturally insensitive. But we squashed her and you are right it all came down to money. Stark, vulgar and brutal.

      At the end of the trip she tried to regain control by offering us money. It was pushed upon us but I threw it back at her. It was a crushing defeat for her and a big loss of face. She never speaks of her time in my home country back in China.

      My wife and I are doing well and looking forward to having children. We are working well together on our own plans without the influence of MIL. It has been hard conditioning to break for my wife but she is loving the freedom it gives her.

      We are working with my family in property development and it is going well. We are looking forward to children and I know my inlaws will have something to do with them but is will be on our own terms.

      I may be fortunate as you said money talks in China and I did this as early as possible. Looking back I should have done this earlier. I am even sure I may have to do this again for the battle of influence may never be over.

    3. Fuck I'm jealous.
      The only thing I wouldn't have done is metaphorically throw the money back at her. I would've simply said "thx, we will use it for college tuition" or something like that.

      You are spot on about one thing in particular: this will absolutely not end. If your family God forbid has a bad business year the MIL will fucking rise from the ocean like Godzilla and throw it in your face.

      Your wealth is the source of your Face, unfortunately. Not how good a husband you are. Not that you do chores or what have you. Its about the car you drive and all that cosmetic shit. MIL will never understand that rich people are unhappy, too.

      The worst nightmare of all is that some CHinese wife's will turn on their own husbands when fortunes wane.

      You did what you had to do. It's over. Make good with MIL. Leave her some face, bro. Send her on a tour of Taiwan or something, and stay in touch!

    4. Yes understood. I felt it was best to assert boundaries with my MIL. It has been successful. We are fortunate as we are more capable even if things go wrong and we do have a bad year we can recover. Most importantly I will stand my ground and will not be enmeshed in that side of family business or politics etc. I know MIL will continue ad nauseam to get what she wants. So we will have to continue to assert our boundaries even if she tries to trample on it.
      The worst thing about MIL's like this is there is no understanding of the unnecessary strain and stress they put on the couple. Thankfully we are far enough away.
      Even when wealth is the most important thing to them and its staring them right in the face they concoct every conceivable fear tactic to break the couple apart. Money it seems is not the only answer. It is often power and authority they want over the entire family, as well as the future of the family.

    5. I think your last paragraph is spot on. The refusal of the China MIL to respect others' boundaries or cultural hierarchical customs of others is the root cause I think. They get away with their bullying attitudes because their husbands usually allow them to. That is, the men have long ago tuned them out. Their busy out chasing women in a bar. Lucky your wife has so many siblings...if she was an only child, it would be tougher....

      Enough! I've got a post to write....

  2. The big question is how long she will stay a millionaire. Prices do not go up forever.

  3. Well, we've all been waiting for the other foot to drop haven't we? And yet prices go up. Recently while there, I saw empty Apartment building after another. All nice looking at that. Apartments are the last vestige of money laundering and of course, for putting one's hard earned cash. Which is probably while nothing has gone down yet.....but when it does....and it out! Lotta folks gonna lose their life savings.

  4. Need to say i have more brains than luck. I married a fine taiwanese lady, with 4 sibblings, from middle - upper family. Her family is financially stable but not millionaries to show off. Actually was living in taiwan for 2 years, met wife before in europe. Can not understand mandarin and to be frank never bother speaking. Said to my wife sorry honey am not competitive enough to stay in taiwan, and we went back to europe. Feel i bit sorry for my mother in law. Took her best kiddo out. As well feel sorry for my wife. Cut half of their tradition they demand it for marriage, but than gave like 10k cold cash to gain some face.I was lucky, folks i know. Was naive as fuck, to me all chinese were the same, thank god i did not end up marrying mainland girl. My mother in law is lovely, cooking crazy tasty food for me. Drinking good liquid wit me, preparing mountain tea. She likes singing, sociable to the fullest. Kinda miss time from taiwan. My wife has it harder, my people are conservative catholics, my brother a street fighter, who just trew my sister bf in garbage can on our last family gathering. He landed drunk as fuck at taoyuan airport, and randomly shout taiwan n.1 fuck china at our marriage party. 10k was not enough. So guys if u have to, make sure she is a taiwanese

  5. Yeah, I would have to say you are lucky your wife is a Taiwanese, and good for you for realizing that. Taiwanese are much more Westernized than the Mainland Chinese. I think she'd rather have her daughter marry a European than a Mainland Chinese fellow. I'm glad you realize the pain your inlaws feel. I feel guilty sometimes as well. Just the other day I was asking China Wife (again) if she ever missed not having a sister, and she basically said (again) "Fuck no, my childhood was great, I had everything I wanted, and didn't have to share it with anybody."

    My family's social background will forever be a shame to my wife and her family. But in the end all that matters is how you two get along. The pressure though I think is unbearable at times. My life is materially speaking a thousand times better for me now than when I was growing up. And it's ten thousand times better for China Wife.

    Regrettably, the Chinese are really into comparing their lifestyles to others....not sure if the Taiwanese are that way...?

    1. If you won the lottery, or created the next Facebook the shame of your family's background to your wife and family would magically disappear. China is the only place where NEW Money can be OLD Money.

    2. Very insightful. And if I won the lottery nobody would ever know my family background for sure. My wife's friends and her mom's friends especially would only know how big our house is, what we drive and where we's funny, the more money I have the "better my character", etc....


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

KTV in China

The worst sex I've ever had with China Girl is with China Wife

Pros and Cons of a Chinese Wife