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A week later, I found myself spitting out the most complicated Mandarin I’ve ever spoken during a screening interview to appear on the show.

If selected, I'll be the first American Caucasian female to compete, which could prove interesting since Caucasian female/Chinese male relationships are rare and sometimes thought of as rather taboo by parents who stereotype Western females as provocative.

(So far, foreign candidates on past shows have included British and American men in the bachelor role and one Filipino-American woman.) What I know now is that I've basically passed the audition, but the producers are still deliberating over whether I can appear on the show as part of a tag-team duo -- despite speaking some broken Mandarin, I'd need my friend to stand beside me on stage and act as a translator.

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So popular it's watched by roughly 300 million people -- the entire population of the US -- each week.For comparison's sake, America's popular dating show pulls 21% of the national population.The program is produced by Jiangsu Broadcasting, but like all Chinese television shows, it's ultimately controlled by the government.As they watch video snippets about the candidate's life and listen to him exchange banter with the witty host, the women decide whether to keep their podium lights on or switch them off, effectively dropping out of the running.(Of course there are other twists and turns to the elimination process, described here.)So how did I first get mixed up in this dating show phenomenon?

In this case the credit goes to a good friend of mine here in China, where I've been living for nearly three years as a retail market analyst.Knowing my adventurous nature, this friend recently convinced me to apply to be one of 24 girls vying to win the heart of a Chinese stud and a ticket for two to Hawaii.It's filmed in Nanjing, the old capital of China, and airs on Jiangsu Satellite likely about to gain even more viewers as the government has recently cracked down on entertainment programs, decreasing the number aired from 126 to 38 every week.President Hu Jintao warned of the influence of Western culture as the decision was announced. It's filmed on a stage with one male bachelor and 24 female candidates.The women stand at individual podiums and use their podium lights to indicate interest in dating the bachelor in question.