Wait­ing for the right mate

Le­gions of el­i­gi­ble men in China will never find wives be­cause there just aren’t enough can­di­dates.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By TIF­FANY TAN

LU YAN trav­elled back to Jilin prov­ince in north­east China this Spring Fes­ti­val as he al­ways has – alone. The 35-year-old wishes he could fi­nally bring home a wife and kids, like all his clos­est friends do. But he re­mains sin­gle and search­ing.

The ac­count man­ager with a multi­na­tional soft­ware com­pany owns a car and has an apart­ment in his home­town. And he re­ceives a salary that’s “among the high­est in my field”.

He’s also study­ing to­wards a masters de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion. Lu is con­sid­ered a catch in a coun­try where a house, a car and cash re­serves are hall­marks of a de­sir­able groom. He lives in Bei­jing, where there are hun­dreds of thou­sands of equally sin­gle women. So, why’s he still sin­gle? Lu says he doesn’t want to marry merely to fol­low so­cial norms, even if so­ci­ety deems him an ag­ing bach­e­lor. He’s wait­ing for the right life­long part­ner.

“I think the most im­por­tant as­pect is how you get along with the per­son, that you feel com­fort­able be­ing yourself with her,” says Lu, a self-de­scribed in­tro­vert.

“How does she treat her fam­ily, friends, even an­i­mals? Can she put up with your habits? And can you do the same with hers?”

In to­day’s China, it’s not only im­pov­er­ished men in the coun­try­side who face dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing wives.

Ur­ban men with good ed­u­ca­tion, se­cure jobs and property are also be­com­ing part of a group called shengnan, or left­over men – men 30 and older who re­main un­mar­ried.

A 2013 na­tional sur­vey of left­over men by match­mak­ing site Ji­ayuan.com found that 36% of re­spon­dents worked as mid­dle or se­nior man­agers and 37% pos­sessed a masters de­gree or higher.

About 29% had monthly in­comes of at least 15,000 yuan (RM8,230) and 31% owned homes.

Le­gions of Chi­nese men will never find Chi­nese wives be­cause there sim­ply aren’t enough can­di­dates.

As a re­sult of China’s fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, which re­stricts many cou­ples to one child, along with the tra­di­tional Chi­nese pref­er­ence for sons, the lat­est of­fi­cial fig­ures say 117.7 boys are born for ev­ery 100 girls in the coun­try.

The im­bal­ance peaked at 121.2 to 100 in 2004. The nat­u­ral birth ra­tio is 105 boys per 100 girls. China has a sur­plus of 22 mil­lion to 34 mil­lion males, says Yuan Xin, a pro­fes­sor at Nankai Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and De­vel­op­ment.

He con­sid­ers left­over men a big­ger so­cial prob­lem than left­over women – a pop­u­lar term for ac­com­plished fe­males who are at least 27 years old and still not mar­ried.

“The mat­ter of left­over women is brought about by a per­son’s stan­dards in choos­ing a spouse,” Yuan says.

“But the prob­lem of left­over men can­not be solved. These people will in­evitably spend their whole lives sin­gle. They want to find a part­ner, but tens of mil­lions of women were never born.”

So­cial sci­en­tists say most life-long bach­e­lors will be found in ru­ral ar­eas that women have de­serted for jobs in the cities and where men of­ten don’t have many as­sets with which to woo po­ten­tial wives.

Why then is there a rise in left­over men even among those who are mar­ketable?

These men, ex­perts say, are re­act­ing against so­ci­ety’s val­ues, which em­pha­sise what they have rather than who they are.

When cou­ples talk about get­ting mar­ried nowa­days, they mean pre­par­ing a house, a car and other “hard­ware”. But they don’t pre­pare the re­la­tion­ship it­self, says Chen Xi­uru, Chi­nese So­ci­ety of Ed­u­ca­tion mar­riage and fam­ily re­searcher.

Zou Meng can’t agree more. The 31-yearold gen­eral man­ager of a Bei­jing travel agency, who owns an apart­ment, a BMW and a Lexus, has be­come dis­heart­ened with ar­ranged dates.

He says most women he meets are in their late 20s and want to get mar­ried right away. But he doesn’t be­lieve a wed­ding should be rushed.

“I think love needs to pass the test of time,” he says. “It in­volves mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and mak­ing ad­just­ments.”

Suc­cess­ful men like Zou have also be­come more cau­tious about ty­ing the knot, hav­ing seen how di­vorces – syn­ony­mous with di­vi­sions of property – are in­creas­ing.

The na­tional di­vorce rate rose by some 40% be­tween 2008 and 2012, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs.

In 2012 – the year for which lat­est fig­ures are avail­able – three mil­lion cou­ples dis­solved their unions.

And with mod­erni­sa­tion, Chi­nese men no longer need wives to ful­fil cer­tain emo­tional and phys­i­cal needs, re­searchers say.

They can flirt, have one-night stands, jug­gle dif­fer­ent girl­friends, live with a woman be­fore mar­riage, or just have close fe­male friends. Be­hav­iour that would have gen­er­ated scan­dal in a pre­vi­ous age is, to­day, ev­ery­day.

Most of all, since they have the free­dom to choose their mates, some men would rather be­come “left­over” than com­pro­mise on their vi­sions of the ideal woman.

“Meet­ing that per­son is des­tiny,” Lu, the tech com­pany ac­count man­ager, says.

For now, he has signed up with Coucou8, a match­mak­ing com­pany that or­gan­ises ac­tiv­i­ties to widen its mem­bers’ friend cir­cles.

But if des­tiny doesn’t present him with the right woman in this life, Lu says he doesn’t mind stay­ing sin­gle. – China Daily/Asia News Net­work

On the look­out: Hope­fuls scan­ning mar­riage ad­ver­tise­ments, look­ing for spouses for them­selves or their sin­gle chil­dren dur­ing a match­mak­ing party at a shop­ping mall in Qing­dao, China. — ePa

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