The antagonist of the play, Song, is an actor in the Chinese opera who usually performs women’s roles. When Song and Gallimard meet, Song is dressed as a Japanese woman and singing the lead role in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. At this first encounter, Song challenges Gallimard in an unfeminine manner. In the first Chinese opera that Gallimard sees, Song plays a drunken wife, another unfeminine character. Song controls Gallimard during their sexual encounters and extracts information from him, all while keeping up the pretense of demure submission to the “superior: Western man. Song is justifiably proud of his own skills as an actor.

While Song admits being attracted to Gallimard, Song has a greater motivation than desire for involvement with Gallimard: fear. When Comrade Chin reminds Song that there’s no homosexuality in China, she is threatening to expose him. After the Cultural Revolution, Comrade Chin carries out her threat and punishes Song, in the ugliest and most brutal scene in the play. Song goes to Paris because he’s been forced to do more spying. Song always spouts Communist propaganda, but the audience does not know whether Song believes it.

It is similarly unclear whether Song ever loves Gallimard or only uses him. Song’s true self emerges only in the last act, when he testifies in court as a man and insists on appearing naked in front of Gallimard. Song wants Gallimard to confront reality and to recognize that Song’s skin, hair, face, and body are the same ones he has loved for years. These actions suggest that Song wants to be loved for his true self, or to at least have Gallimard acknowledge the reality of his identity. However, Gallimard rejects Song in favor of the perfect fantasy woman. Gallimard’s end is tragic, but so is Song’s. He is sent back to China to almost certain further punishment.