Online Dating as a Strategic Game by Maurice Choi Kwok-to and Chan Kwok-bun Springer 3 stars David Bartram Much has been written about the mainland's "leftover men", a product of the one-child policy and sex-specific abortions that could leave as many as 24 million men without a female partner by 2020. In Hong Kong, however, the opposite problem prevails, with women feeling the pressure to snag a husband against the odds: there are only 876 men for every 1,000 women in the city. So it will be with some alarm that Hong Kong's female population will read Maurice Choi Kwok-to's and Chan Kwok-bun's research into a growing phenomenon: Hong Kong men chasing mainland women via the internet. Quite why the city's men, presented with a surplus of women on their doorstep, should turn to the internet in search of a partner from the mainland is the first puzzle for Choi and Chan. They suggest that social anxiety may lead some men to feel more comfortable playing the dating game from behind a computer screen. Others have posited that the city's successful and independent women intimidate many men. By surveying a group of Hong Kong men on the online dating site of the QQ instant messaging service, the book delves into the techniques and motivations of men pursuing love on the mainland. At times it reads like a pickup artist forum, an online trend where men exchange tips on the art of seduction. One man suggests promising women gifts from Hong Kong on a future visit, with the understanding that sex will be provided in return. There is an ugly, misogynistic side to many of the responses. Another man explains that he pursues mainland women online because he believes Hong Kong women to be conceited and disobedient. But this is still an interesting study into an important yet underreported social issue. Of most interest is the researchers' attempt to find the reasons behind the trend. Besides social anxiety, boredom and adventure seem to be recurring themes. Others simply say that it is cheaper than hiring a sex worker. The tendency seems to be to search for short-term relationships. Many of the men surveyed confessed to cutting off contact with the women they pursued after meeting and sleeping with them. The idea of dating as a strategic game will sit uncomfortably with many, even if the authors appear to have at least some sympathy with their subjects. The common practice of creating fake online identities is described at one point as merely an expression of a different self. At least Choi and Chan acknowledge that such an approach to relationships doesn't appear to bring its participants long-term satisfaction. "A consistency between the online self and the offline self may be needed for people to feel good overall," they conclude. But if we can take one thing away from the book, it should perhaps be that the lovelorn and the lonely may still be best served searching for happiness in the real, offline world.