Chinese Dating Shows Sound A Lot Like American Dating Shows

Several Chinese dating shows have been censored for being too materialistic — but the issues of dating and money they bring up sound all too familiar.

The Wall Street Journal's Lisa Movius writes that dating show If You Are the One "featured a panel of 24 single women who brutally interrogated and often hastily rejected a succession of individual bachelors" and included a contestant who "became the Snooki of China by misquoting the Patrizia Reggiani quip: 'I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.'" Says sociologist Wei Wei of this program and others of its ilk: "I think they are more about 'show' rather than 'dating.'" Which sounds a lot like American dating shows.

Government censors have stepped in to regulate If You Are the One and another show, barring them from "sensationaliz[ing] unhealthy and incorrect perspectives on marriage and love, such as money worship." But that hasn't stopped Chinese citizens from criticizing what they see as the unfair economics of dating, in ways that seem like they'd be right at home on, say, an American blog. Says matchmaker Leng Li,

Men look down, for younger, poorer and dumber women, while women demand men better than them. For example, a man of 40 with an apartment can get women 25 on up, [while] women won't want someone lower.

And a man identified as Mr. Ye complains,

All the city girls here are two million kuai girls, these old virgins of 26 to 40. They just want the house and the car, not the man. Rural girls are cheaper, but even they require a house.

Obviously some aspects of the dating economy are specific to China, and can't be understood through an American lens. But it's interesting how much common complaints in America — "men want to date down," "women want a rich guy" — are echoed in China. Some of this might be the Journal's framing — I'd like to see a Chinese publication's take on the issue. But it's also possible that as China and the US are experiencing some similar growing pains as the marriage-minded try to figure out how a formerly economic partnership can also become something else. All this is also complicated the wage gap — China's is about on a par with those of other industrialized countries, says some research — which surely influences whether women see marriage as a necessary source of financial security. But whether you're watching If You Are the One or The Millionaire Matchmaker, it looks like what makes the world go round is not love, but fighting over money.

Are Chinese Women Too Picky? [Wall Street Journal]