Dealing With The Pressure to Marry on Chinese Singles

Dealing With The Pressure to Marry on Chinese Singles
Jan 06, 2014 By Margaux Schreurs ,

In contemporary Chinese society, there is still a constant pressure to marry on Chinese singles. This pressure has been perpetuated by the one child policy, as parents focus all their attention on the success of their one child. Having your parents wanting you to have a good career and marrying someone you love, is true the world over, but for most young Chinese adults they don’t have the respite from parents also focusing on other kids.  

In China there also remains a strong connection to family lineage. Retaining the family last name and continuing the family line is extremely important in a society that is traditionally very hierarchal and patriarchal. Ensuring this continuation becomes less guaranteed in families that only have one child, especially if the children keep putting marriage off in favor of a career and independence.

The pressure to marry on Chinese singles
Source: Arian Zwegers

Looking after ones elders

A further stimulus for Chinese children to get married is the lack of clear-cut government pensions and welfare schemes. Although many changes have been made in the past decade, state pensions are still not sufficient to live off, meaning most citizens’ will not be financially secure after they retire. Children and grandchildren have become vital ‘assets’ or financial security blankets for their elders. This financial security blanket becomes much more stable if there are two incomes supporting it; hence the need for marriage.

This pattern is then repeated for future generations as the average earner is unable to save for their own future when they are supporting older generations, and as such it becomes important that their own children become successful and marry too.

Finding a partner, parents weigh in

Parents are always ready to give a helping hand, even when it comes to finding a partner. This readiness to match-make their children can be seen no more clearly than at one of China’s ‘marriage markets.’ Parents go there to advertise their children by hanging up fliers, in the hope of finding them the perfect match. These fliers provide details of their most beloved, such as education, economic situation, and housing (as well as other assets, like a car). Some parents will also follow the traditional zodiac in order to find their child’s perfect match. 

The ‘Leftovers’: are they really that or was it a choice?

Since the 1980s, the one child policy has lead to abortions and gender discrimination, and left Chinese society with a demographic structure suffering from a severe gender imbalance, with some 117 boys born for every 100 girls in 2012, making finding a partner that much harder. For those who do not find partners, life can become quite miserable; some will feel dejected or feel an embarrassment to their family. This is especially so in the countryside, where attitudes towards marriage are still very traditional. On top of this, social welfare systems in the countryside are even less sturdy and so parents rely even more on children to fund their later years of life.

In addition to men in the countryside struggling to find wives, there is a phenomenon of single women over the age of 27 living in urban areas, who have been rather cruelly  labeled ‘leftover women’. But many of these are not ‘leftovers’ in any sort of way. It wasn’t that they were never chosen, but rather that they chose different priorities for their own life. These women are often highly-educated and successful, choosing to focus on education and careers rather than finding a partner straight away, are ‘modern and progressive’ in the sense that they are independent and feel strongly that they don’t need a man, or have very high standards.

Fake relationships and the LGBT community

Heading home for the holiday is often a dreaded experience for singles in China. The entire focus is on this person being single, throughout the direct and extended family. Women even report being terrified of picking up the phone to their family members while they are not at home, as all relatives in the extended family will frequently call up to ask whether or not they have found a boyfriend or even husband.

But commercialism has found a solution to these problems. There has been a growing number of websites and advertisements offering their services to be a pretend boyfriend or girlfriend for a family event, or even for a long visit home. These advertisements appear even more frequently around national holidays. Having a fake boyfriend or girlfriend, or even husband or wife, can ensure a decrease in pressure to marry on Chinese singles as family member no longer pester.

This option has become especially popular in the LGBT community, where gay men and lesbian women will often get together and sometimes even marry, in order to please their parents. In many cases, this couple will not actually live together, but will pretend to be in a relationship when they return to visit their respective hometowns.

However, there are many negative aspects too. Lying to family about their love life, many adults may feel themselves further distanced from their parents. This is during a time when youngsters tend to move out from their parents house earlier than their previous generation, and when individuality and independence is already on the rise.

The times they are a-changing

In first tier Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, traditional ideas surrounding marriage and dating are changing. As well as the so-called ‘leftover women’, many Chinese men are not getting married at such young ages in favor of other aspects of life such as education, careers, and individuality.

Last month, the Chinese government proposed changes to the one child policy; specifically that for couples where one of the two is an only child they will be able to have two children. This, alongside changing attitudes, may help to relieve some of the pressure on marrying young, as having a sibling may deviate some of the pressure and attention on that one child to carry on the family name, and retain the family pride.

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Keywords: Pressure to marry on Chinese singles marriage gender discrimination single child policy leftover women gender inequality gender gap


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Yup, nothing new here.

Jan 19, 2014 20:14 Report Abuse



The one problem with the local girls are they only want to have life partners not older than them by 10 years..anything above them is no to them except if you are a white guy..

Jan 16, 2014 12:00 Report Abuse



Have to agree with Samsara, nothing new or personal in this article, old generalisations that we've read about before! Guest644110 must have just stepped off the boat :)

Jan 08, 2014 15:47 Report Abuse



Indeed its a fact.

Jan 06, 2014 17:09 Report Abuse



What a long list of generalisations, stock phrases and superfluous words. None of this could be a revelation to anyone (except for Guest644110, apparently). This is lazy writing which shows no evidence of research and no individual insight. It's just a repackaging (with less specificity) of other eChinaCities articles.

Jan 06, 2014 11:42 Report Abuse



This article is very informative and well written. Good job Margaux Schreurs.

Jan 06, 2014 07:06 Report Abuse