Eligible Singles in China Are All Business When It Comes to Love and Marriage

Dating in China is a considerably more business-like endeavor, at least according to the New York Times' Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, who casts marriage in China as a generally economic arrangement stripped of its sentimentality. Men and women have extremely specific requirements for potential mates and, on some occasions, even bring their parents along on dates Kimmy Bishop-style so that a new squeeze can be properly vetted.

"Romance in China," writes Sebag-Montefiore, "is often sacrificed to practicality; dating has largely become a commercial transaction." To that end, people entering the dating pool tend evaluate possible marriage candidates based on a few essential criteria. Men are generally evaluated on their physical and economic stature, that is, tall dudes with good incomes, cars, and homes that are not made out of cardboard go straight to the front of the line. For women, however, it seems to be really important that they marry before their 27th birthdays, otherwise they magically transform into sheng nu, or "leftover women," a really shitty term that the Chinese Ministry of Education officially ushered into the lexicon back in 2007 (the word sheng is the same word used to connote leftover food).

Even though arranged marriages were banned in 1950, observers say that matchmaking — and the pre-assigned gender roles that seem to accompany that practice — is still pretty common. According to Beijing-based journalist Roseann Lake, marriage in China is often seen as an unvarnished arrangement for "pulling resources," and the idea that even the most professionally successful woman is "absolutely nothing until she is married" stubbornly prevails in the country's dating culture.

Since there's no welfare system in China (and owing to the one-child-only policy), young people are expected to take care of the older generation, which means that marriage suddenly becomes everybody's business. Couple that with the fact that China's skewed birth rate will lead to a surplus of 24 million men in rural areas, and suddenly the pressure mounts for an increasingly well-educated female population to find an adequate match. There's even a $3,100 course in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu for women wanting to learn the proper technique for "snagging" a millionaire husband, which probably involves one really large sheet of flypaper or an Audrey II-like plant.

Romance With Chinese Characteristics [NY Times]