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Infidelity in China: An In-Depth Look

Infidelity is a sensitive topic that is often shrouded in secrecy and taboo in many societies, including China.

While extramarital affairs are not unique to China, they can have unique cultural and social implications.

In this article, we will explore the prevalence, causes, and consequences of cheating in Chinese marriages.

How Prevalent is Cheating in Chinese Marriages?

The 2006 Sexuality Survey of China provides a national probability survey with data.

Survey2006 Sexuality Survey of China
Sample Size3,567 people aged 18-49 years old
Relationship Status89% were in a marital relationship, and 11% were in a dating/cohabiting relationship
AttitudesExtramarital sex was completely unacceptable to 74% of women and 60% of men. 95% of women and men found it either somewhat or completely unacceptable.
Punishment77% of women wanted severe punishment for men’s short-term commercial sex
JealousyWomen’s jealousy was equally elevated by their primary partner’s episodes of commercial and non-commercial sex.

The study conducted in China revealed that 4.5% of women and 11.0% of men had engaged in non-commercial infidelity during the last 12 months.

In addition, 5.5% of men had engaged in commercial sex.

These percentages were found to match or exceed the median for other countries.

Men who cheated were primarily driven by sexual dissatisfaction with their primary partner, while women were more likely to cheat due to a lack of love.

Women who were partnered with low-income men were more likely to cheat.

Interestingly, women who had engaged in early masturbation and premarital sex were just as likely as men with similar backgrounds to have elevated infidelity.

Expats Story in China:

You will hear stories like this from the expats you met in China once in a while:

A male teacher from America moved to Shanghai to teach at an international school.

He was well-liked by his students and enjoyed meeting their families.

One day, a wealthy mother of one of his students invited him to a fancy dinner party at her mansion.

He accepted and dressed up for the occasion.

At the party, the woman seduced him and he gave in to her charms.

If you were to ask this mother why she did it, 90% of the time she would say that it’s because her husband is away on business for most of the year, and they haven’t had a sexual relationship in many years.

Causes of Cheating in Chinese Marriages:

Like any form of infidelity, cheating in Chinese marriages can be caused by a multitude of factors, including but not limited to:

  1. Due to pressure from family and society, people get married and have children too early without exploring.
  2. Lack of sex education and modern love education.
  3. Cultural and societal pressures to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations.
  4. Economic and financial stresses especially the ones live in first-tier cities in China as the housing price is just way too high.
  5. Opportunity and accessibility, the increasing availability of technology and social media platforms has made it easier for individuals to engage in extramarital affairs.
  6. Chinese men have for centuries had concubines. Sign of status, etc….

Consequences of Cheating in Chinese Marriages:

The consequences of cheating in Chinese marriages can be severe and far-reaching, both for the individuals involved and their families.

In addition to the emotional trauma and loss of trust that comes with infidelity, Chinese culture places a heavy emphasis on family and social harmony.

A cheating spouse can bring shame and embarrassment to their family, particularly if the affair becomes public knowledge.

Divorce rates have been steadily rising in China, with infidelity being cited as one of the main reasons for marital breakdowns.

In general, committing adultery in China is not a criminal offense and therefore does not carry any legal punishment.

However, as mentioned before, there are specific circumstances where adultery is considered a crime, such as in the case of destroying military marriage or committing bigamy, and the punishment for those offenses is stipulated by law.

Crime of Destroying Military Marriage

If one party knows that the other party is the spouse of an active-duty military member and engages in a long-term affair or cohabitation, it constitutes a crime of destroying military marriage.

Relevant law: Article 259 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China: “Anyone who knows that he/she cohabits with or marries the spouse of an active-duty military member shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years or criminal detention.

Based on the severity of the extramarital affair and the impact it has on society, civil servants can either receive a warning or be dismissed from their position and party membership.

If the spouse requests a divorce, the court will also consider the evidence of the affair when making decisions regarding property division and child custody.

In China’s popular microblogging platform, Weibo, social hot topics often arise, such as the case of a wife publicly exposing her government official husband’s infidelity and serious misconduct.

These videos are usually spread through social media and generate significant public pressure, ultimately leading to the dismissal of the government official from their position.


Cheating in Chinese marriages is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a nuanced understanding of cultural and social dynamics.

While it is difficult to accurately gauge the prevalence of infidelity in China, it is clear that it can have significant and long-lasting consequences for those involved.

As with any relationship, open communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to work through challenges together are key to maintaining a strong and healthy marriage.


What was the punishment for adultery in Old China?

In old China, the punishment for adultery varied depending on the time period and region.

However, it was generally considered a serious offense and could result in severe consequences such as public shaming, imprisonment, or even execution.

Women were often punished more severely than men, and punishments could also depend on the social status of those involved.

Some punishments included being forced to wear a wooden collar or being paraded through the streets with shaved heads. In some cases, the offending party’s family could also be punished or ostracized from their community.

Is cheating not grounds for divorce in China?

Cheating is recognized as one of the legal grounds for divorce in China.

The country’s Marriage Law allows for divorce when one spouse commits adultery, which is defined as engaging in sexual activities with someone other than their legal spouse.

However, in practice, proving adultery can be difficult, and many couples may choose to divorce for other reasons instead.

It’s worth noting that attitudes towards divorce in China have shifted in recent years, with a growing acceptance of divorce as a viable option for couples facing irreconcilable differences or other challenges in their marriage.

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