Let a thousand love matches bloom in China

In China, it is common for singles to find a spouse through commercial dating services, "marriage markets" like this one in Zhongshan Park in Beijing, or reality TV shows. Now they have another option: The Communist Youth League is stepping in to hel
In China, it is common for singles to find a spouse through commercial dating services, "marriage markets" like this one in Zhongshan Park in Beijing, or reality TV shows. Now they have another option: The Communist Youth League is stepping in to help singles find love.ST PHOTO: CHONG KOH PING

China's Communist Youth League to help singles get hitched

Singles in eastern Zhejiang province will soon be having a party to help them find love - the Chinese Communist Party, that is.

A new department to be set up later this month at the Zhejiang provincial branch of China's Communist Youth League (CYL) will organise both online and offline activities such as mass dating events or special interest groups for all singles, whether they are party members or not, free of charge.

"The phenomenon of (unmarried) youth has become a social issue in China," said Mr Wang Jun, an official at the branch.

Many young people these days prefer to stay home to play online games or watch online videos, he observed. And they tend to have very narrow social circles that are limited to the people they meet at work, he added.

"As a public service platform, we are here to create opportunities for these young people to make friends. They don't have to pay a cent to join our activities. In fact, the CYL is spending money to help them find their life partners," he told The Sunday Times in a phone interview.

The move comes after Mr He Junke, head of the CYL, said last month that solving the problem of dating and marriage for this group of Chinese is one of the league's top priorities. He said that more people in China are getting married later compared to before.

Hence, the CYL should help tackle the issue by instilling "correct values" about marriage and family in young Chinese, organising activities to help them expand their social circles and coordinating with the relevant government organisations to better regulate matchmaking services.

SOCIAL ISSUE

The phenomenon of (unmarried) youth has become a social issue in China.

'' MR WANG JUN, an official at the Zhejiang provincial branch of China's Communist Youth League.

A survey conducted by the All-China Women's Federation in 2015 showed that the average age at which Chinese people marry was 26, up from 23 for women and 25 for men in 2000.

For city dwellers, the average age for people to tie the knot was 30.

Ms Christie Guo, a Zhejiang native, thinks it is a good idea for the local CYL branch to step in to provide dating services.

"At least it provides an additional avenue for young people to make new friends," said the 31-year-old single, who works in a bank in Beijing. "In my home town, women who are still unmarried after 25 are considered daling shengnu," she said, using the popular Chinese phrase that literally means "old leftover women".

Her parents are concerned, but she prefers to let nature take its course. "I'm not too keen to spend what is left of my limited energy after work on trying to find a partner," she told The Sunday Times.

According to statistics, there are nearly 200 million singles in China.

Like Ms Guo, many have moved to big cities like Beijing or Shanghai for better work opportunities, and they tend to live alone.

This has contributed to the rise of one-person households, which made up 14 per cent of all households across the country in 2013, up from 6 per cent in 1990. One in four households in Shanghai and one in five in Beijing has a single dweller.

However, not everyone relishes the opportunity to find a spouse being offered by official organisations. Shanghai resident Sophia Chen thinks there is no need for the CYL to provide dating services.

"It should just focus on regulating the commercial dating companies and websites. I don't trust such government-related organisations and I doubt if they can provide any meaningful activities," said the 35-year-old consultant.

Like most of her single friends who are in their mid-30s or older, Ms Chen is in no hurry to get hitched. She does not see marriage as a necessary next step in her life.

"I don't see it as a milestone that I must achieve. I want to find someone who can bring happiness to my life. And I have to consider if our values, personalities and economic statuses are a good match," she said.

Zhejiang native He Guoxin, 37, said there is "no point" in getting anxious about marriage. "I will get married when I find a suitable partner," said the Beijing-based businessman. He acknowledged that he had neglected looking for a partner when he was younger as he was focusing on his career.

"As time goes by, my expectations and considerations were raised, so it gets increasingly harder to find someone compatible," he said. "I'm quite happy living by myself if I can't find anyone suitable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Let a thousand love matches bloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe