Shanghai China’s least faithful city? Ashley Madison leak reveals all...

By Ella Wong, September 1, 2015

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Oh Shanghai. You already have a reputation for being the Chinese city most “open to foreign influence” – now we know what that really means.

The 'Whore of the Orient' is home to more cheating spouses than any other city in China, at least according to figures exposed in last month’s hack of Ashley Madison, the social networking website for married people looking to have an affair.

Ashley Madison has so far attracted almost 9,000 registered users in Shanghai, twice as many as in Beijing. (For the sake of comparison, according to the 2010 census, Shanghai’s population is 23 million, not that much more than Beijing’s 19.6 million). 

However, sandwiched between China’s two biggest cities are the freewheeling southern metropolises of Guangzhou (pop. 12.7 million) and Shenzhen (10.3 million), each home to more than 5,000 users prowling the site for fellow adulterers – meaning that on a per capita basis, infidelity is actually most rampant down in Guangdong. Yes, that's right, while it seems that Shanghai was caught with its pants down, the city can say it's not what it looks like!

Here’s the top ten Chinese cities (with the populations of their administrative areas), by number of Ashley Madison users:

  1. Shanghai (23 million) ................ 8,953

  2. Guangzhou (12.7 million) ......... 5,622

  3. Shenzhen (10.3 million) ........... 5,217

  4. Beijing (19.6 million) ................ 4,405

  5. Chengdu (14 million) ............... 3,156           

  6. Nanjing  (8 million) .................. 2,327

  7. Tianjin (12.9 million) ............... 2,302

  8. Hangzhou (8.7 million) ........... 2,286

  9. Chongqing (28 million) ............1,650

  10. Suzhou (10.4 million) ..............1,618

As the Nanfang notes, “Although these numbers pale in comparison to the 33 million users that are primarily from Canada, the USA and Australia, the website had yet to formally set up operations in mainland China.”

Speaking to The Atlantic in 2014, Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman (who has since resigned in the wake of the hack) said the company had ambitious plans to expand to the Mainland despite the complications involved (at the time, the website was blocked in China. It is now accessible without a VPN and includes simplified Chinese among its many languages).   

Biderman also rejected the idea that China’s cultural conservatism would inhibit his business’ growth. In fact, the PRC appears to be a particularly fertile market for an adultery website, not only because many men have mistresses, but because Chinese women are more likely to cheat than women elsewhere, according to a 2012 study.

However, based on this map comparing the gender distribution of Ashley Madison users, Chinese cities face the same gender imbalance issue that most places do: more than 85 percent of users are male.

Ashley Madison users in China

Apparently, what really whetted Biderman’s appetite for the Chinese market was the large number of Mainland users who registered on the Hong Kong site. “What we see a lot with Hong Kong are a lot of profiles registered outside of Hong Kong and then utilized in Hong Kong - what we would call ‘the travel notion,’” he says. “Being a hundred kilometers from home, who is going to ever find out? That is a great time and place to have an affair.”

Until the hackers come for your data, that is…

[Map via Tecnilogica]

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