regret marrying the laowai

The Chinese Movie Stars Who Regret Their Failed Relationships with Foreign Men

Domestic abuse often cited as a factor

Few topics ignite passionate debate in China quite like that of interracial relationships. The issue grabbed national headlines last year when, after revealing details of her failed relationship with Canadian Blaine Grunewald, actress Yuan Li said: “You can better appreciate Chinese men after marrying a foreigner.”

Last July, Sina Shanghai followed up its coverage of the Yuan Li story by publishing a list of Chinese movie stars who said they “regretted” their failed relationship with foreign men, who are often called “laowai”. Even though half a year has gone by, the popularity of this topic surged again when the same article reappeared on the Chinese Internet.

With that in mind, here is the entire Sina Shanghai article translated into English by The Nanfang:

Yuan Li takes the lead in a list of ten women movies stars who regret falling in love with a laowai

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Recently, movie star Yuan Li candidly opened up on a talk show interview about her marriage. In interpersonal relationships, male foreigners are very different than Chinese men due to cultural differences. Yuan Li said, “You (can) better appreciate all the good qualities of Chinese men after marrying a foreigner.” Yuan said after the wedding that she felt pain and torment like she had never experienced before. She said she felt nothing but anguish at the beginning of the marriage, saying, “It was like a stuck gear made of flesh and blood, clacking away, grinding down upon my heart and my soul.” For a time, she only wanted to forget about this period in her life.

What is for certain is that Yuan’s life right now is not what she had initially imagined, what with all the regrets she’s managed to accumulate. Not so long ago, keeping up with the ways of the world, and the influence of trend-setting female movie stars, finding a laowai for a husband was in fashion for young Chinese women who emulated their role models and followed fads. Within entertainment circles, there have been quite a few people who have taken a laowai for a husband. Though there are some that have turned out happily, there are also those that sadly get quickly nipped in the bud. With laowai cheating their victims of money and sex as well as having to endure domestic violence, many of these Chinese women have come to regret their decisions.

Here are a list of movie stars who have come to regret falling in love with a laowai.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Ning Jing

Movie making brought Ning Jing and American actor Paul (Kersey) together in love and a quick wedding. Not long ago, someone mentioned that Ning Jing married a laowai because her ex-boyfriend had married a woman from abroad. Supposedly, her reaction was to marry a foreigner of her own. However, after the wedding, the relationship soured. Ning Jing separated from her husband once arrangements for her green card didn’t work out. Rocky relations between the two eventually led to a divorce. Ning Jing worked together with her American husband Paul Kersey in two films, Red River Valley and Love’s Grief Over the Yellow River. To use Ning Jing’s words to describe the situation, the decision to get married ‘Came very fast!’ as they got married just months later. Ning Jing said that Paul completely changed character. When Paul started to not come home at night, Ning became angry, leading to sudden emotional outbursts and exchanges. ‘Three words were all it took for him to leap up and slam his fist on the table. Often things like a stool or a cup would get thrown, turning our home into a chaotic disarray.’

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Li Lingyu

Audiences are most familiar with Li Lingyu from her role as the White Rabbit from the television series Journey to the West. In 1984, 21 year-old Li completely threw away her promising acting career in a ‘flash wedding’ to her boyfriend (indicating the couple had not spent much time together before deciding to marry). However, without her own career, Li was reduced to following her boyfriend around, existing only within his shadow, completely losing all sense of herself. It was only after a painful decision in 1989 when Li sadly ended her marriage. (Li had become famous in the 80s with the popularity of Journey to the West as the White Rabbit.) In 1995, Li met Jerry, the CEO of an investment company while she was a foreign exchange student in Canada. Then in 2000, Li gave birth to a boy named Jessie. But with the culture gap between East and West proving to be too great, Li’s marriage turned out to be not so happy, and the couple often got into arguments. In 2005, Li and Jerry formally divorced.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Wei Wei

When the Asian Games were being held in Beijing, singer Wei Wei confirmed her place as a singing diva by singing the hit song, All-Mighty Asia. Wei went on to marry Swede Michael Joseph Smith and the couple raised three boys together. In May 2004, the marriage of Wei and Smith hit a red light, but who would get custody of the three mixed-race children born around the world? The two sides engaged in a heated custody battle. Not only did Smith confiscate the passports for the three children as permitted under the Swedish rules for divorce, but also threatened Wei’s life several times for which she had to resort to using the protection of bodyguards. Even though it has been years since Wei got divorced, she still can not disentangle herself from the financial affairs of her ex-husband. At present, Wei has brought her children back to China. Wei is rumored to be dating again, to yet another laowai.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Maggie Cheung

In a 1998 flash wedding that raised an uproar across internet forums, Maggie Cheung married French director (Oliver) Assayass, a man seven years younger than her. At the time, many people feared she would be forgotten in Chinese film circles. However, after going on honeymoon and finishing filming In the Mood for Love, (Cheung) endured domestic abuse which eventually resulted in the couple’s divorce. It would appear as though the wounds from the divorce still remain as Cheung has not been seen dating recently.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Jessey Meng

Throughout her transition from a model, to a host, to an actor, the talents of Jessey Meng are always on display. Meng had an unforgettable cross-border relationship, but who would have guessed that this was just a ‘honey trap’? After living with her Italian boyfriend for four years, Jessey got dumped. Not only was Jessey used for sex, but Jessey’s boyfriend had also taken much of her money, using hundreds of thousands of Euros to take another girlfriend on a trip of hedonism, and blowing the fortune that Jessey and her family had worked so hard to accrue.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Chen Luyu

Chen Luyu married an American in 1995. The next year, Chen brought her husband to China as she joined the line-up of Phoenix Television. But while Chen was receiving accolades for her work, her marriage hit a red light. According to reports, this was a time when Chen was anchoring the Phoenix morning rush hour report. Chen went to bed at 7pm, got up at 4am, and had never taken a day off work for a year. Even though Chen did not think that her busy work schedule would leave her estranged from her husband, the couple eventually got a divorce in 1999. Additionally, there are reports that the actual reason behind the divorce was that Chen was physically abused by her foreign husband.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Zhang Mi

Despite having enjoyed a brief case of popularity, Zhang Mi attracted more media attention for her relationship. With unending tales of her husband’s infidelity, the man even authored a book called Zhang Mi, My Sexy Girlfriend in which racy stories of their sex life were revealed in graphic detail. All the same, not long afterwards, Zhang and her boyfriend parted ways.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Jessica Hsuan

40 year-old Jessica Hsuan had been dating South Africa Ruan Bester, a man four years her junior, since 2009. Hsuan’s side has maintained that the two get along well and had an affinity for each other. However, when it came time to announce the wedding, Hsuan suddenly announced the two had broken up, stunning everyone with the news. As it has been said, Hsuan would often get into disputes over getting married, which Hsuan was in favor of. Unsuccessful in her attempt, Hsuan decided to end their relationship. People in the know have said that the South African man had no intention of getting married, and was just ‘playing around’.

regret marrying laowai husband interracial relationship cross cultural

Zhang Ziyi

In 2007, Zhang Ziyi became involved with Israeli venture capitalist (Aviv ‘Vivi’ Nevo) who is worth 4.2 billion yuan. The two would often be seen at high profile public events. In January 2009, the spotlight-seeking Zhang was (photographed by paparazzi) at a Caribbean resort in which their passion for each other left tongues wagging in shock. However, a divorce happened shortly thereafter, leaving people to wonder why the 43 year-old foreign boyfriend would end the marriage. Afterwards, ‘Vivi’ was seen dating other girlfriends and appearing at other high-profile events, while Zhang Ziyi still remains fixated upon her former flame.

We’d like to add just a few points that may contradict some details of the Sina Shanghai article.

First off, not all the women in the list have public expressed regret at their failed relationships. Jessica Hsuan has said that despite her breakup with Bester, she doesn’t hold any regrets. “We’re adults. The break up is not a bolt from the blue. We are still friends,” said Hsuan. Likewise, Zhang Ziyi has expressed amicable feelings towards her ex-boyfriend after their breakup, saying, “I tried to make it work but it didn’t, and I have no regrets over it.”

As well, it’s noteworthy to add that many of these actresses have had failed relationships with Chinese men in addition to foreign men. Zhang had a failed relationship with CCTV host Sa Beining, and Maggie Cheung dated Hong Kong director Derek Yee, but the two eventually separated. Meanwhile, Yuan Li has two failed marriages of her own with Zhao Ling and Xu Wei, with whom she shares a son.

And lastly, most of these women don’t harbor lingering wounds from their divorces. Since her breakup with ‘Vivi’, Zhang Ziyi has gotten engaged to Chinese musician Wang Feng, and the two welcomed a baby girl just last week, signifying that she may have gotten over any lasting heartbreak. Also, enjoying a robust dating life post-divorce, is Maggie Cheung, who had been dating German architect Ole Scheeren until their breakup four years ago.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor