Photo Credit: VCG

Humbug or High-Quality Human?

An embarrassing dating video gives rise to China's latest slang for sleazy males

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a “high-quality human male (人类高质量男性 rénlèi gāozhìliàng nánxìng)” must be in possession of a “high-quality human female (人类高质量女性 rénlèi gāozhìliàng nǚxìng),” Xu Qingen, a 29-year-old financial adviser and emerging web celebrity, stated in a now-viral video posted on Instagram and various Chinese social media platforms in July.

With greasy hair, big glasses, and a face artificially whitened by heavy foundation, Xu hardly seems like a catch. Yet as he states, his three-minute video is a call for “courtship.” After introducing his age, height, weight, astrological sign, and career, he emphasizes the benefits that his future girlfriend can enjoy: 我能给您带来什么样的价值和利益呢? 我这边可以不定期或定期给您一些财务上的支持 (Wǒ néng gěi nín dàilái shénme yàng de jiàzhí hé lìyì ne? Wǒ zhèbiān kěyǐ bú dìngqī huò dìngqī gěi nín yìxiē cáiwù shang de zhīchí, What value or benefits can I offer you? I can render you occasional or regular financial support) via (in English) “British pound, US dollar or Chinese yuan either.”

He further shows off his English skills and worldliness by saying, “I have worked in Europe or Hong Kong. I can speak English. If you have world traveling needs, I can help you take pictures (我在欧洲或者香港都工作过,我可以讲英语,所以说如果您有全球旅游的需求,我可以给您拍照 Wǒ zài Ōuzhōu huòzhě Xiānggǎng dōu gōngzuòguo, wǒ kěyǐ jiǎng Yīngyǔ, suǒyǐ shuō rúguǒ nín yǒu quánqiú lǚyóu de xūqiú, wǒ kěyǐ gěi nín pāizhào).

Though the video is supposed to show off Xu’s impressive credentials, presenting him as one of many men in China’s “elite” dating spheres with a high income and assets at their disposal, Xu’s nerdy look and habit of addressing prospective partners like a business client achieves just the opposite effect. His overly formal vocabulary, including words like “human (人类 rénlèi)” and “courtship (求偶 qiú’ǒu),” seems to emphasize the biological characteristics of human beings. His rational, business-like speaking style, which includes the use of the formal second person pronoun “您 (nín),” also makes his dating proposal sound like an embarrassing sales pitch. He even shows off his selfie posture on camera—twisting his body to intentionally show off the Burberry checks in his jacket lining.

a photo still of Xu Qingen's tiktok, who inspired the Chinese slang high quality human male

A still from Xu Qingen’s TikTok

Netizens, amused by Xu’s bizarre antics, have dubbed him the latest “average-yet-confident man (普信男 pǔ xìn nán)” to embarrass himself on the Chinese internet. This is an abbreviation of “普通且自信的男生 pǔtōng qiě zìxìn de nánshēng),” a phrase coined by stand-up comedian Yang Li to complain about men with outsized egos (an act that led the same men to try to report Yang to Chinese authorities for “insulting” them).

Besides imitating Xu’s contorted selfie pose, netizens have now added the expression “high-quality” to their slang dictionary. The term refers to the material possessions or lifestyles that people typically admire, or even are jealous of—like “overseas returnees (海归 hǎiguī)” who obtain degrees or work experience abroad, people in the financial industry who stay in high-end hotels, or those with good looks and the appearance of luxurious lives online (even if they fake it).

Dazzled by idols with stunning looks and perfect body shapes, celebrity fans, with phones in their hands and admiration in their eyes, might cry out: “Is this a high-quality human (这就是高质量人类吗 Zhè jiù shì gāozhìliàng rénlèi ma)?” Recently, the characters played by actor Yang Yang and actress Dilraba Dilmurat in romance drama You Are My Glory, known for their “high-value appearance (高颜值 gāoyánzhí),” successful careers, and sincere and equal relationship, caused viewers to comment, “Is this a high-quality couple (这就是高质量情侣吗 Zhè jiù shì gāozhìliàng qínglǚ ma)?” Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, who moved Chinese viewers with their sporting feats and fun personalities off the pitch, also attracted countless fans (吸粉无数 xīfěn wúshù) to boast about their favorite Olympians online: “Let me show you a high-quality human athlete (让你来见识一下什么是人类高质量运动员 Ràng nǐ lái jiànshi yí xià shénme shì rénlèi gāozhìliàng yùndòngyuán)!”

More often, though, the expression “high-quality human” is ironic. Since Xu’s so-called “qualities” were a joke, netizens renamed Xu and his fellow self-proclaimed gentlemen as “high-quality human greasy objects (人类高质量油物 rénlèi gāozhìliàng yóuwù)”—油物 (yóuwù) is a homophone for “尤物 (yóuwù, hottie, stunner).”

From “greasy onion pie (聪油饼 cōng yóu bǐng)” Wang Sicong’s revival of “vulgar love talk (土味情话 tǔwèi qínghuà)” to Xu’s “high-quality grease,” China’s internet has witnessed a renaissance of “greasy (油腻 yóunì),” an older term for men who are sleazy and embarrassing. Their flubdub may eventually become a passing fad, while their impact on Chinese slang will see them remembered for their extraordinary confidence—even though they’re otherwise decidedly ordinary.


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