Get a date, get married, singles in China pressed during festive season

A couple pose for pictures with their marriage certificates at a civil affairs bureau in Hefei, Anhui province, on February 14, 2014. According to local media, many young couples rushed to register their marriages on Friday as the last day of Chinese
A couple pose for pictures with their marriage certificates at a civil affairs bureau in Hefei, Anhui province, on February 14, 2014. According to local media, many young couples rushed to register their marriages on Friday as the last day of Chinese New Year, known as yuan xiao, is also the Chinese equivalent of Valentines Day. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Like tens of millions of other young migrant workers, Ms Jin Juan thought the Chinese New Year break would be an escape from the routine drudgery of work.

What she did not expect was to be hustled by her parents into as many as five blind dates a day.

“When I met the fifth guy, the looks of the first one began to fade away,” said Ms Jin, 20, a Henan native working in Guangdong province. Her experience soon grabbed the headlines in Chinese media.

Ms Jin was not alone. More than four in five Chinese singles, particularly those working far away from home and reuniting with family only in the festive season, came under mounting pressure from concerned parents, who scrambled to arrange blind dates for their children on the seven-day holiday, a survey conducted by China Youth Daily revealed.

The pressure is even more intense as the Chinese New Year holidays come to an end today, known as yuan xiao, which is also the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day.

Of the 7,932 respondents, more than 61 per cent fell into the 25-30 age group. Nearly half of them believed that their parents didn’t understand them, while only 21 per cent thought the opposite.

“I was frightened to death,” said Mr Fang Yizhou, 31, a civil servant, recalling how he was “persecuted” by his family for remaining a bachelor and prodded into blind dates during the Chinese New Year.

“The dates were getting younger and younger, even including those born in the 1990s. Give me a break. We’re not even on the same wavelength,” he lamented.

Matchmaking services posted as much as a 30 per cent surge in profits during the Chinese New Year, with charges for a customer ranging from a few hundred yuan to thousands, according to Chinese media.

Many parents’ anxieties over their children’s singlehood are largely due to a traditional family-oriented mindset, said Sociology Professor Shang Chongsheng from Wuhan University.

They want to see their only child tie the knot and start a family earlier, Prof Shang added.

“But children will be grown-up and independent. Parents should be concerned, but they shouldn’t push the envelope and infringe on their children’s independence,” Prof Shang said.

There are about 100 million young migrant workers born in the 1980s and 90s, according to People’s Daily. Most come from single-child families, thanks to China’s strict family planning policies.

A small social circle and high cost of living were the most cited reasons why young people were not yet hitched, the survey found.

“The young generations grew up in an environment much better than that of their parents. They just don’t want to live in hardship after marriage,” said Ms Yao Lu, a senior official with Jiayuan matchmaking service. “In big cities, the cost of living is so high that financial conditions weigh on their decisions on choosing a partner.”

Also, young people value love and quality of life when looking for Mr or Ms Right, while their parents simply want to see a “big happy family” during the Chinese New year, Ms Yao told the China Youth Daily.

Still, some parents’ efforts paid off, with their children ending up in a lightning marriage. However, the elderly’s dream of a “big happy family” could be as far-fetched as before.

Mr Liu Ming, 21, divorced his 19-year-old wife, introduced by his parents during the 2013 Chinese New Year, just a few months after the marriage. They knew each other less than a week before taking their vows.

Unfazed, his parents continued to arrange blind dates for Mr Liu in this festival and convinced him to wed a girl he met just a few times.

“The girl looks ill-tempered. But looking at my mother’s face, I just bit the bullet,” said Mr Liu, a Guangzhou-based migrant worker who celebrated the new year at his hometown in Hubei province.

“There is little romance for marriage, and my parents have gone through all this,” he said.

Jumping on the bandwagon, a leading matchmaking firm, Baihe, rolled out a 30-sec commercial during the Chinese New Year, urging the young to tie the knot to please the elderly at home.

It was immediately bombarded with criticism, with more than 46,000 web users calling for a boycott of the firm on microblogs.

Professor Hu Yiqing, with School of Journalism and Communication in Nanjing University, said the outcry was mainly triggered by the timing of the commercial’s release.

“Many singles are being pressed by parents for marriage during the Chinese New Year. Launching the commercial at this time, Baihe was bound to draw resentment from the young,” Prof Hu told Jinling Evening.

jihongou@sph.com.sg