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China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - Con­tact the writer at zhangyu1@chi­

Hav­ing seen the pres­sures Chi­nese par­ents bring to bear on their un­mar­ried off­spring, Jeremiah Christie said fall­ing in love with a Chi­nese woman could be­come an un­nerv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The 30-year-old United States na­tional, who­has livedand­worked in­China for four years, has had re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal women but none lasted long. Be­ing un­mar­ried at his age means he has been rel­e­gated to the cat­e­gory of a “left­over” in the eyes of many Chi­nese.

“Peo­ple are sur­prised when I tell them I’m not mar­ried and don’t have any kids,” Christie said, adding that the sur­prise ex­pressed made him feel shy.

As an English teacher at He­bei Nor­mal Univer­sity in Shijiazhuang, cap­i­tal of He­bei — the prov­ince that ef­fec­tively sur­rounds Bei­jing — Christie started to be­come aware of the pres­sure ap­plied by the “nor­mally, you should not be sin­gle by now” phi­los­o­phy when he turned 27.

That was be­cause he had reached an age when­most peo­ple in­China are ei­ther mar­ried or are in the process of get­ting hitched.

A re­cent re­port pub­lished by the Min­istryof Civil Af­fairsshowedthat 39.4per­cent of the cou­ples who mar­ried last year were aged be­tween 25 and 29.

Christie said he felt that 27 was an ap­pro­pri­ate age for mar­riage— not just in China, but in most places around the world. How­ever, hewas­in­cred­u­lou­sand­sad­dened that young sin­gle peo­ple in China come un­der ex­treme pres­sure from their par­ents if they fail to marry at the “ap­pro­pri­ate” age.

Parental pres­sure

Eighty-six per­cent of sin­gle peo­ple ages 25 to 35 face parental pres­sures to marry as quickly as pos­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by a health de­vel­op­ment cen­ter run by the China Work­ing Com­mit­tee for the Care of theNex­tGen­er­a­tion ear­lier this year.

These peo­ple have usu­ally been ed­u­cated to a high level and work in a dif­fer­ent city totheir par­ents. Ev­ery time the par­ents call, they ask ques­tions their chil­dren have come to dread, such as “have you found a boyfriend/girl­friend?” and “when do you plan to marry?”

It’s easy for the chil­dren to dodge ques­tions over the phone, but there’s no way of avoid­ing the in­evitable queries when they visit their par­ents dur­ing the hol­i­days.

More­over, par­ents of­ten make full use of the­hol­i­daystoar­rangeas­man­yx­i­angqin— blind dates— for their chil­dren as pos­si­ble.

Zhang Yu

Blind dates

Zhang Cui was forced to go on five blind dates dur­ing the Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val, a three-day hol­i­day in June.

The 28-year-old works in Bei­jing, while her par­ents live in Dongquancheng vil­lage in Shijiazhuang.

“My sin­gle sta­tus at the age of 28 is hard formy par­ents to bear,” said Zhang, adding that most peo­ple her age who still live in the vil­lage have been mar­ried for at least two years, and many have al­ready started their own fam­i­lies.

“In their eyes, I’m al­ready a left­over wom­an­whow­ill find it hard tomeet some­one­tomarry,” she said, re­fer­ring to her par­ents. “But the dates they ar­ranged were no good; the­men­were usu­ally un­suit­able­and for me the suc­cess rate was zero.”

The pres­sure can be­come so in­tense that somey­oungs­in­gle peo­ple, driven to de­spair by the end­less nag­ging and fre­quent xi­angqin, will try ev­ery means to avoid phone calls from their par­ents or try to avoid re­turn­ing home, even dur­ing pub­lic hol­i­days which are usu­ally de­voted to fam­ily re­unions.

Some even “rent” part­ners— to­tal strangers— to­go­home­with­them­dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val or theMid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val, just to as­suage their par­ents and rel­a­tives.

Zhangre­fuses to rentaboyfriend, call­ing the idea“ab­surd”. In­stead, sheopts to travel for the du­ra­tion of the hol­i­days: “It’s not that I don’t want to find a life part­ner, I’m just wait­ing for the right per­son.”

She­said she has learned­fromthe ex­pe­ri­ence of her older sis­ter, who rushed into mar­riage with a man her par­ents thought would make a suit­able match.

The union ended af­ter just a year, when Zhang’s sis­ter found her­self in an in­tol­er­a­ble sit­u­a­tion be­cause of fre­quent ar­gu­ments with her hus­band.

De­spite the fail­ure of the mar­riage, Zhang’s par­ents still be­lieve that it is bet­ter to marry at the per­ceived “cor­rect time” than to be left out.

Even though Zhang finds it hard to dis­obey her par­ents, she re­fuses to con­cede to their wishes be­cause she doesn’t want to be­come a po­ten­tial di­vorcee.

In the past decade, mar­i­tal break­down has be­come more preva­lent in China. Last year, more than 3.8 mil­lion cou­ples di­vorced, a rise of 5.6 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, while the num­ber that mar­ried fell by 6.3 per­cent to about 12 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to theMin­istry of Civil Af­fairs.

Song Qingjia, a psy­chol­o­gist who has worked ex­ten­sively in Bei­jing and He­bei, said 30 per­cent of his cus­tomers con­sult him about mar­i­tal prob­lems, 10 per­cent of which are caused by rushed mar­riages.

Un­der­stand­ing and pa­tience

Like Zhang, Christie is not keen on be­com­ing a di­vorce statis­tic, so he is bid­ing his time. How­ever, even though he is of mar­riage­able age, his mother sup­ports his de­ci­sion to wait.

“I grew up in a sin­gle-par­ent home, so hav­ing a whole fam­ily where both par­ents love each other is ex­tremely im­por­tant to me,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t want his chil­dren to grow up in the sit­u­a­tion he did.

His mother, who said she wants to see him mar­ried with chil­dren, oc­ca­sion­ally asks him about his prospects.

“She trusts me, and knows that it will hap­pen in good time. We agreed that I’d rather wait for a good­fam­ily than rush into a me­diocre one,” he said.

“But now I’m in China, so my mom might have been tempted to chuckle a lit­tle if I had told her I was kind of be­ing pres­sured by ‘Chi­nese par­ents’,” he said, adding that the sit­u­a­tion has never arisen in any re­la­tion­ship he has had in China.

Look­ing for dates

Li Youdong is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at the FirstHospi­tal ofHe­beiMed­i­calUniver­sity. Her 22-year-old daugh­ter is study­ing for a doc­tor­ate in eco­nom­ics, but she­won’t ob­tain it un­til 2020, by which time she will be 26.

Li is con­cerned that it will be too late for her daugh­ter to find a suit­able match af­ter she grad­u­ates. “I have started ask­ing col­leagues and friends to in­tro­duce her to a po­ten­tial boyfriend,” she said. “By then she may only be able to marry a left­over man, rather than an ex­cel­lent one.”

Li is also con­cerned that if her daugh­ter doesn’t marry be­fore she is 28, she could miss theop­ti­mum­time to have a baby. “It’s for her own good,” she said.

Dif­fer­ent stan­dards

Ex­perts say Li’s con­cerns are not en­tirely with­out foun­da­tion.

“The best years for a woman to give birth are from 25 to 29,” said Qiao Jie, head of the So­ci­ety of Ob­stet­rics and Gy­ne­col­ogy at the Chi­nese Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, in an in­ter­view with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion.

As a psy­chol­o­gist, Li said she un­der­stands that young peo­ple and their par­ents have dif­fer­ent stan­dards for life part­ners, and the younger gen­er­a­tion has lit­tle sense of time in this mat­ter.

“Chil­dren should com­mu­ni­cate with their par­ents to re­duce their anx­i­eties, and par­ents should give their chil­dren enough free­dom and time to choose their per­fect life part­ner,” she said.



Se­nior res­i­dents as­sess can­di­dates for blind dates with their chil­dren at a match­mak­ing fair in Shijiazhuang, He­bei prov­ince.

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