(This Is China-39) February 18, 2019 – Chapter 38 from THIS IS CHINA


PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order one from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, steve, feb 18, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com    blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com


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Chapter 38

When I first encountered reports about China’s leftover women, I could only think of something I had known intimately in my life, especially when I was young and poor and starving, something which was the best in the world. Something good. Something desirable. Something useful. Something coveted by many people, like me. This was the first time in my life to come across this in China, the leftover women. My initial reaction was it must be about something desirable in the society. Something, maybe, coveted by all men. But I was in for a surprise when I started to read more about this new phenomenon in China: leftover men and leftover women.

In 2007, the Ministry of Education had added the sexist derogatory term “leftover women” (sheng nu in Chinese) to its official lexicon. In 2010, All-China Women’s Federation and other government departments carried out a nationwide survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 provinces and the results on leftover women were publicized repeatedly by China’s official media. Labeled “See what category of ‘leftover’ you belong to”, it divided the women into three distinct groups: those between the ages of 25 to 27, were labelled “leftover fighters”, implying this group still had the courage to fight for a partner; those between 28 to 30, were labelled “ones who must triumph”, implying this group had limited opportunity because their career left no time for the pursuit of a partner; and those between 35 and older, were labelled “master class of leftover women”, implying this group had luxury apartment, private car and a company, but now living as leftover women. These results had been recycled many times in the Chinese media. In November 22, 2011, according to Xinhua News, “More than 90 percent of men surveyed said women should marry before 27 to avoid becoming unwanted.” That women should not demand too much from their men.

The public continues to wonder the reasons for this female dilemma, to find the Mr. Right for the neglected women, and speculate if this is an improvement for the females or a social problem for the nation as a whole. Who is to decide if the women should get married by a certain age, if not they would be considered abnormal leftover women? Traditional custom in China believes young women should get married by a certain age, though this tradition is fading in the 21st century as more and more are marrying later in life. As society changes, age to marriage also changes. Joy Chen, a Chinese American, once deputy mayor of Los Angeles, a superstar in China, wrote a book Do Not Marry Before Age 30 to help women deal with dating and how to find their husbands, and how to reach their potential. She told ABCNews.com about the crisis facing Chinese women today: “Their value is derived from their marital status.

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Women who are married are normal; those who are unmarried are abnormal.” In 2012,
All-China Women’s Federation named her “Woman of the year”.

In China, women are treated unfairly. Many work hard to further their education to stay competitive in the job market. And when they receive their doctoral degree, they might be 30 years of age and still unmarried. So, in reality, who are these so-called “leftover women”? They are well-educated, well-paid and independent. Most are white collar workers, living in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai and Guangzhou and Shenzhen, their counterparts in rural areas long married in their early 20s. Some refer to them as 3S Ladies: Single, Seventies (most born in the 1970s) and Stuck. By no means are they ugly or underprivileged. The opposite is true: they have good looks, education, income and background. Yet some think they “have it all” and they expect it all and are being too picky and intolerable to every imperfection when trying to find a soul-mate.

The different headlines and posts continued the public fascination and obsession with this phenomenon in China:

“China’s ‘Leftover Women’ desperate to find Mr Right”.
“China’s Leftover Women”.
“Will you marry your boyfriend with no home or car?”
“Men and Women in danger”.
“For millions of Chinese men, lonely life as ‘Bare Branch’ looms”.
“China’s growing legion of single males will make you sad and worried”.
“New Report warms ‘leftover’ men and women of dangers: Chinese ask, ‘who’s to blame?’”
“Bride price in China: the obstacle to Bare Branches seeking marriage”.
“China’s ‘bare branches’, one child policy leaves surplus of bachelors”.

A 36-year-old migrant worker told researches that “I get very lonely. No one cares about me and I have no one to speak to when I go home. I sometimes get so drunk that I vomit and when that happens, there’s no one to clean up after me.” So how come this is happening in China today? Some blame it on the one-child policy which preferred males over females, with less females now available for marriage. It is also said that many rural people chose to have abortions every time they conceived a female child. And now their sons could not find a wife. That is what they get for killing female babies. The one-child policy gave one chance for coveted baby boys.

Why the longstanding preference for males, particularly in the countryside? Many believe males are able to withstand backbreaking farm work. And also the best ones

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to carry on the family line and name, better able to care for their elderly parents and to
earn money. And the traditional preference for sons meant, especially those in rural areas, sex selection through abortion and infanticide. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), statistics reveal more than 50 million girls are missing in India and China because of female infanticide, now existing in several cultures for decades around the world. And this in China, according to researchers, exacerbated the imbalance, increasingly skewed gender ratio: in 2012, 117 males were born for every 100 females. One-child policy distorted the gender ratio. One city, Lianyungang, in Jiangsu Province, had a ratio of 165 boys to 100 girls of children aged between one to four in 2007. Though the government would like to boast a strict family planning policy has prevented 400 million births since the rules were introduced in 1979. In 2003, the government did try to introduce something new, called “Care for Girls” policy, trying to provide incentives like tax breaks and exemptions from school and health fees for those families raising girls. And in the countryside, many buildings were daubed with slogans like “Girls are as valuable as boys” and “Both boys and girls are the hearts of their parents”. Will these change the mindset of today’s Chinese?

And why so many bare branches (branches without leaves)? Some blame this on bride price, the traditional payment for brides, going up each year and rural females marrying up, depriving many men the joys of matrimony, love and fatherhood, all cards stacked against them. Gender imbalance could lead to sexual crimes, wife trafficking and social frustration. Societal pressures make many men, or bare branches, lonely, angry, sad, forlorn, aimless, now becoming a threat to social stability, stability of families and communities. The big joke among college students is that the government is not serious about shutting down all porn sites on the internet for fear of social unrest and sexual crime and violence among the lonely bachelors. Most bare branches are from rural, poverty-stricken areas, low-income workers, representing a danger to society with their sexual frustration, isolated and marginalized, who would frequent prostitutes, fight, gamble and drink. And some threatening to cut off family ties until they could find a wife.

In Guizhou Province, the media reported “bachelor villages” where most men of eligible age could not find a wife. Commercial matchmaking parties are on the rise in some cities. And now some desperate mothers are known to canvass parks and neighborhoods for single women, finding potential female partners for their sons, trying to avoid the stigma of sons labeled derisively as bare branches. In the news every year, more men and women in urban areas are looking for partners whose names are posted on walls and boards in public places across China on Single’s Day (11/11), hoping to find someone to love and marry.

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One summer David and his elder brother, went to their remote hometown. David said,
“After I broke up with my girlfriend because her mother continued to harass me for more money, I decided to give myself one more try. We went home to our hometown and I tried some blind dates. We met a few girls but they were all so ugly. I would not marry someone who had no interests in anything. They were dumb and could not speak well. Some don’t even have a good education. It was really depressing. I tried but it did not work.” I told David he was being too picky since he had a good college education.

Another student told me the same story. “Last week I had a few blind dates. I could not talk intelligently to any of the girls. They were so stupid. They had no interests in anything. They were not even pretty, to begin with.”

A student told me his boyfriend, now working for a big wholesale company, went home to spend the holidays with his parents. And they arranged many blind dates for him. They were desperate for him to get married and produce a grandchild. But to no avail because he had no real desire to marry a female though he was around 30 years old.

If it is true that there will be 120 young men for every 100 women, by some accounts, that would mean 40 million young bare branches demographically destined to a life without a wife or a child. One consequence is that some women and their families can afford to be extra choosy, demanding more money, cars and apartments in China’s expensive cities. In a 2011 survey, 70% of single women said financial considerations ranked above all else when selecting a husband. And this sentiment was made famous by a contestant Ma Nuo in a mega-popular dating show If You Are The One when she said, “I’d rather be crying in a BMW than laughing on the backseat of a bicycle.”

It is a known fact that material desires always exist in the history of China. For example, during the Cultural Revolution, women looked to men with good political backgrounds, ones who had a bicycle, a watch, a sewing machine and a radio, as necessary conditions for marriage to a man. But you needed then commodity ration coupons, given by the communist government, to acquire these items, making them a symbol of power. Then, standing in front of Chairman Mao Zedong’s portrait, you exchanged the marriage vows before relatives and friends, when major spending was on bed and sheets and other daily necessities. Things have changed, now young people grow up in a materialistic society, with no-free-lunch philosophy influencing the mindset of the whole society.

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In 2007, an online survey by China Youth Daily discovered 58.8 percent of men and 51.6 of women believed there was a “starting price” in marriage. Of the 10,050 females surveyed, 47.4 percent said it was ok for a man not to have a car but not ok to have no house at time of marriage. Of the 8,962 males surveyed, 39.3 percent agreed. Seven percent of women would not marry a man with no house or car. Eleven percent of men would not propose to a girl if he had no house or car. A female was quoted as saying, “No matter how deeply you love each other, the marriage would sooner or later be ruined by financial difficulties”.

Wu Ran, a stage director said, “You don’t have to own a villa and a BMW, but a car or a house shows a man’s stable status. For me it’s absolutely a must to have a house and a car before I marry the girl I love. I want to provide a stable life for her”. Nothing is for free. So in 2006, Shanghai, China’s most materialistic city, held its first exclusive “Love Boat” party on a cruise to bring together local millionaires and pretty desirable rich women. The party was for those who could afford 28,000 yuan for the cruise and with assets worth at least 2 million yuan, allowing men and women to get what they were looking for. Nothing is for free, anymore.

I am tired of repeating to my many college students, like a line in a popular song: if you think sex and love are enough in a marriage, you are in for many surprises awaiting you!

This is China.


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