Someone on the mainland has been watching The Wedding Date. For just $50, women in China now have the opportunity to engage an eligible young man to accompany them home for a family visit, according to a report by the BBC. And with Chinese New Year upon us — one of the biggest travel periods of the year, as millions of Chinese head home for the holiday — the services of these gentlemen are in high demand.
“I’m pretty old – I’m almost 30 – but I’m still single,” Ding Na, a young woman from northeast China who lives in Beijing, explained to the BBC. “I’m under a lot of pressure. My sisters and relatives all ask me why I’m not married.” For many women under that kind of pressure, an answer can be found on China’s online marketplace, Taobao, where a number of solutions can be found. Some men who post charge $5 an hour to accompany a girl to dinner, while others request $8 for a kiss on the cheek. (Sex is not one of the options offered.)
The fake boyfriend (or commonly, fake girlfriend) trend is a result of the clash between old and new traditions, Hu Xingdou, a social commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told The Guardian. The pressures of modern urban life make it difficult for young people to meet partners, but their parents still expect them to marry in their early or mid twenties.
Despite the views of the older generation, marriage in China has undergone a transformation in recent decades. According to The Economist, many parents continue to play a role in finding a match for their children, even though arranged marriages were banned in 1950. Meanwhile, in part due to the effects of China’s one-child policy, the nation’s birth rate has skewed male – there are 118 boys born for every 100 girls — with the result that by 2020 there will be a surplus of about 24 million bachelors. The country has even coined a term for these unmarried men: guang gun, meaning “bare branches” — in other words, men who will not add to the family tree. According to The Economist, single women also have a name – sheng-nu, which translates as “left-over women.”