Nowadays in China, it is becoming an increasingly difficult problem for young people to find their spouse. More and more Chinese young people begin to choose blind date. From offline dating market to dating applications in the virtual world, the same thing is that people set a series of expectations: educational background, work experiences, family members, personal growth potential, asset valuation such as houses and cars……making it very hard to distinguish between courtship and job hunting. Behind the strict screening criteria, there are rather low success rates. The cause of “active blind date” and “complicated marriage” is not single, but may involve economic, social, cultural, and policy aspects.
Physiological Factors: “Ceiling” for Women Only
In blind dates, the natural differences between women and men are magnified. Physiological differences are the decisive factor and thus bring more obstacles to women. On the one hand, women are more likely to encounter "ceilings" in their workplace, manifested by having fewer opportunities for promotion and weaker bargaining power for salary that caused by gender discrimination. On the other hand, women will also encounter the "ceiling" of fertility at an earlier age—30-year-old is often regarded as a watershed. As a result, men are more inclined to choose younger women as their spouses, while women pay more attention to men's economic or social level. Therefore, a unique phenomenon appears: higher job position or academic qualifications may make it more difficult for women to find the other half, because these are often “exchanged” by age. Men are in the opposite position: as long as they can earn enough money, age is rarely a hindrance.
Conceptual Factor: Are Men meant to be Stronger?
Influenced by the Confucian culture for two thousand years, the traditional concepts in East Asian countries believe that men are in a dominant position in the family and women are in a subordinate position. However, with the liberation of the female labor force and their income catching up with or even surpassing that of men, the default family model of "men make money and women take care of the family" has been challenged. According to a survey by dating websites Zhenai.com, 86.36% of men don’t mind that women earn more money, while only 48.75% of women don’t mind that men earn less. "Honestly, as long as men have a normal job, I personally don't care about their income." a female entrepreneur from Shanghai, Dolly said, "but my family pay more attention to men’s ability. Making much money is a very important performance, right?"
There are also some women who take different strategies, such as not telling the truth, towards men who are weaker than themselves. Ann, a financial consultant, said: "During blind dates, I often tell my income a bit lower. I care about men’s self-esteem and also worry that some people with bad intentions will be dangerous to me." Elissa, who is studying for a Doctor of medicine tends to conceal her educational background. “Sometimes boys are scared away when they hear of a woman with doctorate. I hope to have the chance to get acquainted with the boy I like, and tell him the ‘truth’ later.”
Economic Factors: Marriage tied to Real Estate
In the traditional Chinese conception, a house with property rights is one of the essential elements for one’s living, especially for men, having no house is almost equal to “having no qualification" for marriage. But for young people especially those who work in big cities, their salary is insignificant compared to the high housing prices, which means it is impossible to buy a house on their own and must rely on the support of their parents and even grandparents. This has directly led to an increasing proportion of economic factors, and high attention to family background when people are selecting their spouse. After all, no matter men or women, nobody wants to marry a “burden” for future life. On a well-known BBS website Douban.com, you can see a lot of discussions about "match or not" of the men and women in a blind date. Some anonymous netizen asked: "Which one should I choose? A rich but ugly man, or a handsome but poor man?" Some people suggested she choose the former because "money is more lasting than passion"; others said they would choose the latter, because “passion is impossible for ugly ones at all".
Living pressure in big cities is not only reflected in housing prices, but also in high-quality education and medical resources which are in short supply. Therefore, people who are engaged in professions such as teachers and doctors have also become popular choices in the blind date market. In addition, having experienced the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on business, Chinese young people are also inclined to choose to take exam to get into more stable job such as civil servant or state-owned enterprise, or simply choose a spouse with such stable job.
Policy Factors: Pains and Gains in Development
The reasons for the dilemma of mate selection are so complex that a collision of old and new policies should be taken into consideration as well. Since the 1980s, China has been advocating the "one-child policy" because of the rapid population growth and the shortage of resources. That is, each couple should have only one child. In 2016, the one-child policy was officially abolished. However, this generation of young people whose age is concentrated in 20-35 years old is already facing a labor shortage and aging society. As the only child in family, they once enjoyed an unprecedentedly abundant material life in childhood——girls in particular have received equal love and support from their parents. But they also face unprecedented pressure of supporting parents that no one can share when they grow up. When the only child in two families get married, they will face high housing prices, high-pressure jobs, four elderly parents as well as their own children.
New policies also have both advantages and disadvantages. Since January 1st, 2021, China has introduced a new law on divorce which called "divorce cooling-off period". This law requires broken couples to wait for another 30 days after applying for divorce for the first time (victims of domestic violence do not apply to this law). If either regrets divorcing during this period, the divorce application can be withdrawn. The original intention of this law is to make married couples cherish marriage more, however unmarried people become more cautious about marriage. Richard, a 33-year-old salesperson said: “I am rich enough to live in a good nursing home when I become old, while it seems terrible to live with the same person for several decades.” On the other hand, women are more worried about family gender division. As Dolly said, "I can't imagine being a nanny for my husband and children. I just want to marry a man who is willing to share housework or able to hire a servant."
In December 2014, Biao Xiang, a professor of Social Anthropology in University of Oxford, has made a summary of contemporary Chinese marriage. He said, “The current Chinese marriage is meant to pursue personal happiness, but it becomes a rational calculation under the strong intervention of parents. A very important reason for this situation is social inequality. Parents' calculation is to maintain an unequal reproduction system: what the child already have must not be lost, and what the child haven't got must be striven for.” Considering all the factors, the dilemma of blind date can be seen as a microcosm of China’s social development. In the face of reality, the spiritual love seems to be fragile; and living pressure is always there, whether you choose to marry or not through a blind date.