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

Illustration for article titled 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]

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Little Miss Philociraptor

The thing Western culture fail to understand is: marriage with practicality as a basis does not equate disregard of human emotions. Just love it when you make matchmaking sound like a cattle-trade.

Matchmaking services is really more like being introduced through mutual friends. But instead of your friend saying "OMG, you will totally get along so well, you both still watch reruns of Flight of the Concords!", a eHarmony in-real-life matches you up to someone who come from the same social/economical/political background. Oftentimes an official service isn't even employed, but done through mutual family friends, usually a respectable elder.

Following the match, people DO NOT GET MARRIED IMMEDIATELY. They date. Yes, you heard me, they date. They date for 8 months to usually a year or a year and a half, with the notion of marriage in mind. During which, if they don't see it going somewhere, people split. They are not obligated to marry each other. That said, because it was done through a match-arrangement participated by parents and elders from each family, people do usually have to conjure up some reasons other than "eh, we just don't click" as not to hurt the face of rejcetee's family. But, this dating practice is then done with respect. There is no murky waters, no "I don't know if we're official", none of that weird dating scene that men and women alike struggle with in this land of hook-up culture. That is one benefit.

I do agree that the sentiment toward women is still rather backward. The Economist actually did a great article on the decline in marriage for well-educated, gainfully employed women over 30 (http://www.economist.com/node/21526350). It has lots to do with the still traditional (though slowly evolving) view of women and their gender roles, and the expectations of a family structure. It is definitely something Asian societies still need to work on.

That said, I just wanted to share this long response to the article; which pretty much ridiculed the way Asian people conduct their marrying practices. While in some regions it is still very much looking at merging of resources than respecting the will of the two entering the marriage, in big cities people are seeing less and less of that. Just like anywhere else, there is a gap between city to rural areas in the evolution of gender roles. Just like how in the deep south, some still believe that interracial marriage is illegal.