The Singles Market in China

Every week-end, at People’s Square in Shanghai, one will encounter a strange market dedicated to single people looking for love.

Parents and grandparents come here, to find the ideal partner for their younger family, and whole families are worried about the single status of young adults. Detailed ads are featured, helping one to find the perfect match, everything is here: age, weight, salary, qualifications, family values, one’s zodiac sign, and their personality traits. The profiles are very varied, there are singles from 18 to 80 years old, expatriates or divorced, but also widows and widowers, seeking a new soul mate.

Parents in China can be very demanding, most are seeking a man with money and a good situation for their daughter, or a beautiful wife for their son. Moreover, time is short for many of them, because if they are over 30 years old the chances of finding someone are thought to be very thin, being single at this age is considered a social failure in China.

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In China, the concept of marriage differs from the one we inherited in the western, Judaeo-Christian historical context, where a marital relationship is both loving, sexual, economic, and a sign of solidarity. Here, love and sex life are not important factors for a wedding, it is more about finding a life partner than a romantic partner. Although Chinese society is changing, this view of marriage for convenience remains a strong tradition. In 2010, 90% of the adult population in China was currently or had been married, there was also only a 0.2% divorce rate. This easily explains the “complicated” status of singles in China, their situation is considered evidence of immaturity and maladjustment to life in society. Cohabitation is tolerated but unthinkable with a child.

That said, the social pressure mainly comes from parents, as shown in the population present in the single market, composed mainly of parents and grandparents. It is a generational divide and attitude that still prevails.

The situation is getting even more serious as China is experiencing a significant gender imbalance, a detrimental impact of the one-child policy where males were preferred when only one Child could be brought up. A sociologist in North Carolina predicts that by the year 2020, China will have 24 million more men than women.

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