Chinese Relatives Pressuring You to Marry? Try a Rent-a-Boyfriend

With the Chinese New Year coming up many young Chinese men and women are choosing to rent a partner for the holdiays

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REUTERS / REUTERS

A bridegroom kisses his wife as they pose for pictures under the Chinese national emblem

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.

(MORE: A Marriage Plot: Love and Art in Beijing)

“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.

(MORE: For Love or Real Estate: The Cost of Getting Divorced in China)

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.”

7 comments
AlexParkhurst
AlexParkhurst

"My sisters and relatives all ask me why I'm not married".

MY SISTERS??????

I thought China had a one child policy and they murdered any child after the first. This gal's old man must be a big honcho in the Communist Party. Freedon for me, socialism and repression for you. Don't you just love totalitarian countries.

I think I just heard the hyprocisy bell ring loud and clear.

Qaweeniee
Qaweeniee

@AlexParkhurst No. The One Child Policy does not kill or intend to harm any children that are not firstborn. The family household is only merely charged with fines for any kid after the firstborn thereof.

RosyS
RosyS

family can pay the fine and have more kids

RosyS
RosyS

@AlexParkhurst one child policy in general.  family can pay the fine and have more kids

my-new-life-in-asia
my-new-life-in-asia

@AlexParkhurst Actually the one child policy is not as strict as you might think. First of all, the population is divided into different groups. For example, ethnic minorities have no restrictions at all. Second, the punishment for having more than one child is only pecuniary. I've met Chinese people who had siblings because their parents - if they could afford it - just paid the fine. Third, there are many other exceptions. 

"As of 2007, 35.9% of the population were subject to a strict one-child limit. 52.9% were permitted to have a second child if their first was a daughter; 9.6% of Chinese couples were permitted two children regardless of their genders; and 1.6% - mainly Tibetans - had no limit at all." (Wikipedia) 

ShuaiqiMa
ShuaiqiMa

@AlexParkhurst I bet you'd cry if China did not implement one child policy. The whole world, even your lovely little house would be full of Chinese.

my-new-life-in-asia
my-new-life-in-asia like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'm afraid that the way Western media report on this kind of cultural 'peculiarities' is not enough to help Western audiences understand the deep reasons why marriage in China is so important and why love and romance are by far less important than stability and social recognition.

Traditional Chinese society is best understood by referring to the triad ruler-father-husband. This triad represented the formal order of Chinese society. Its opposite was 'luan', chaos or disorder. For society to function properly, the three relationships (husband-wife, father-son, ruler-subject) had to be strictly hierarchic. These relationships were unequal, that is, the superior demanded obedience from the inferior, while the superior was supposed to exercise his power benignly. 

"Within the state ideology of 'family order', disorder was a serious threat to the legitimacy of the imperial system. Disintegrating families reflected poorly on the influence of local magistrates whose job was to keep people quiet (i.e., to avoid litigation and complaints) so the emperor could 'do nothing' (wuwei) and rely on li (or 'rites'). Thus, we see an example of the historical predilection of the Chinese against litigation.' " (quotation from Chinese Communication Studies: Contexts and Comparisons 2002, p. 126)

"In Chinese parenting, parents would usually encourage children to pursue socially approved 'vertical goals', hoping to receive thereby more social achievement [...]. However, for the 'horizontal goals' that children personally embrace, Chinese parents would not necessarily give the same support. Although Chinese have a concept of 'family as a whole', compared with vertical distinctiveness, parents feel a lesser degree of having or not having face as a result of their children's achievement or failure in horizontal goals." (quotation from Handbook of Chinese Psychology 2012, p. 493)

Material success and marriage are usually the two main points on which Chinese parenting focus. Parents inculcate in their children the need to be successful in school and work, even if that means neglecting friendship or leisure. The same as to marriage: parents discourage their children from trusting their feelings of love and the pursuit of happiness, and put pressure on them to choose their partners in order to enhance their social status and their financial well-being. A reflection about the ultimate reason why marriage is a goal per se, while love or happiness are seen as having low priority, are, too, discouraged.

aristeon @my-new-life-in-asia.blogspot