(This Is China-40) February 19, 2019 – Chapter 39 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 19, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com           blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com

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Chapter 39

Internationally, in both Europe and United States, men marry at an average age of 30, women at 28. Because many live together before their marriage, and so it is natural for them to get married in their thirties or later. In South Korea, traditional like the Chinese, average marriage age for men has surpassed 30, for women it has increased to 28. Census data in China indicate 33.31 million more men than women were born between 1980 and 2000.

Both leftover men and women share the same conundrum. The media seemed to indicate bare branches crisis is greater than the leftover women issue. The traditional concept of marriage says clearly husbands should hold more economic power than the wives. And so men tend to marry one step down the socio-economic ladder. So the most successful men and least successful women, according to this perspective, are left behind. Some think leftover women deserved to be alone because of their unrealistically high expectations. The widening social inequality and materialism in urban areas make it difficult for men to own an apartment and a car. The truth is that leftover women are not looking for men of higher status but most men, because of their upbringing, are more willing to marry women of a lower status. Educated women are more likely to look for equality in their partners, and hard to find a suitable partner. In America, women tend to marry up, men marry down, outside their social class.

In reality, Chinese society is more tolerant of men than women. For women, the more successful they are, the harder for them to find a partner. And no matter how outstanding or successful, they will be described as leftovers. Because of the resulting sex-ratio imbalance, do women have the upper hand in marriage? And turned their scarcity into economic gain? Can they coerce a man to give her a home before she agrees to marry? According to HSBC Bank, women in China missed out on the biggest accumulation of real estate wealth in history valued at more than $17 trillion in 2010. Women are usually excluded because homes tend to be registered solely in man’s name. Because Chinese parents tend to buy homes for sons, not daughters. And because of recent changes to China’s Marriage Law, marital property belongs solely to the official buyer whose name is in the deed. Recently Benny had to break up with his girlfriend because his mother refused to include the girl’s name in the deed to a new apartment that the mother was planning to buy for her son. Benny had no choice but to listen obediently to her mother’s desire. He dutifully broke up with his girlfriend because she insisted on having her name on the new apartment.

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In Beijing, a survey estimated, by 2013 there would be more than 500,000 leftover women because many chose career as their top priority, considering single life over marriage and family, and choosing individual pursuits over family values. Some in the public believe the Chinese government continues to aggressively disseminate the sexist term, leftover women, to warn women they will become spinsters if they are not married by age 30. The other irony is that the sex-ratio imbalance has resulted in a surplus of men who will not be able to find females to marry. When media creates new words or concepts like bare branches or leftover women, they are creating not only new burdens on the young people, but also on the parents. The sons and daughters try to survive the filial pressure to get married and do not have the luxury to choose a lifestyle they want, or wait to find the right persons at the right time and be the best they can be to attract suitable partners.

And when David, a young professional working for a state-owned enterprise with his college degree from a distinguished university, told me he had to give up his beloved girlfriend because the girl’s mother demanded more money from him, I bravely suggested to him the best alternative now in China: the Naked Marriage. In November 12, 2011, The Christian Science Monitor, one of the top newspapers in the United States carried this headline: “‘Naked marriages’ on rise in China”, saying “As costs soar in the cities, more couples in China are opting for ‘naked marriages’- those without the once-required trappings of a house and other goods.” At the end of the article, the reporter quoted a woman, a custom service agent who had recently married a software engineer, as saying, my husband and I “believe it’s more important to find the right person than to find the right house. We don’t ask for anything more. My parents could not help us buy in Beijing, neither could his parents, and we do not earn enough,” she said bluntly. “We solved the problem with a naked marriage. We accepted reality. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The biggest obstacle in China today is how to convince a young man like David and other Davids and many materialistic money-minded parents to accept the simple truth of the naked marriage: “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

In India, raising a female child has become a burden for those who are poor. Female infanticide is practiced by many Indians simply because they do not want their daughters to suffer killings or burnings by their husbands because of disputes over dowry—money and other valuable goods which a female family must give to the male family. If you think marriage is bad in China, think of the dowry system in India, where a bride’s family has to pay the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride in an Indian marriage. Dowry is practiced in parts of Asia, North Africa and the Balkans. In India, it started as a wedding gift by upper caste families to the

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bride from her family. Later it was given to help with marriage expenses and acted as a kind of insurance should her in-laws mistreat her. Though prohibited in 1961 it is highly institutionalized in India. The husband-to-be usually now demands a huge dowry of money, farm animals, furniture and electronics. And so the abuse of dowry is rising in India. And if it is insufficient or not forthcoming, the in-laws would harass or abuse the new bride. The in-laws might pour kerosene on her and light it, killing the bride. According to reports, in Delhi, India’s capital city, a woman is burned to death almost every twelve hours. In the words of one research article, “The lack of official registration of this crime is apparent in Delhi, where ninety percent of cases of women burnt were recorded as accidents, five percent as suicide and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder.” Rape, for example, is a common occurrence in India without little attention by the current Indian government. Because of deep rooted prejudices against women in India, dowry disputes sometimes result in violent acts against women, including killings by fire and acid attacks. Tragically, many of these incidents are reported in international news as accidental burns in the kitchen or suicides. So much so some poverty-stricken Indians prefer female infanticide to avoid this human tragedy. Maybe staying single, if allowed, might be the best option for many poor women in India.

In China, being single is an individual choice and a civilized society like China with a long history of more than 5000 years should be more tolerant of the young people and give them more freedom to choose their own lifestyles. Unfortunately, most Chinese people still adhere to traditional criteria of certain age as suitable for marriage for both men and women, the result of people’s cultural expectations lagging behind societal changes today. Chinese society should be more tolerant and respectful of diverse individual lifestyle choices. Is creating and continued promotion of the derogatory and sexist terms like bare branches and leftover women in media campaigns the best way for the Chinese government to deal with the severe demographic crisis? And the sex-ratio imbalance caused by the 1979 one-child policy coupled with China’s traditional preference for males over females?

Under Chairman Mao Zedong, women were important to him, women were to hold half the sky, and he encouraged them to be independent in their decisions to marry the men of their own choosing. Sex was not for recreation but to produce babies to fortify a new nation he had just created. Most importantly, there was only one class of people in his new kingdom: the working class.

Bare Branches and leftover women could never have arisen under his reign. Under the new leadership of Deng Xiaoping, obviously China has become a new country, with all its promises, challenges and pursuits of international prominence and dominance,

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and the severe prices and sacrifices we are now paying for our progress. The November 2014 APEC Blue phenomenon might provide a clue as to how China might be able to mitigate if not completely eradicate the social problems of leftover men and women in modern China.

So what is the APEC Blue? According to a report in Asia Life, it is “a term that emerged to describe the ephemeral skies above Beijing just before the APEC summit, vividly depicts the façade that China wanted to present to the world while it hosted the 21 heads of Asia-Pacific economies. It also brings to mind the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the sky was clear blue and just a handful of cars ran down empty streets amid shuttered factories in Beijing and its neighboring provinces. Beijing once again showed itself willing to spend time, energy, money, and propaganda resources to impress the world with its ability to show its very best face…. It also took half of the cars off local roads, closed more than 1,000 heavy industrial plants within a 120-mile radius of the city, and delayed central heating services in Tianjin until the summit was over. Together with students, public sector employees enjoyed one week off during the summit. In addition, no passports were issued, no weddings were registered, no taxes were paid, no fresh products were delivered, and no banks were open. Apparently burial services were even partially suspended during APEC.”

And if China had the will and determination to create the 2014 APEC Blue, the problems of bare branches and leftover women should not continue to spoil or tarnish the social landscape of China, forever. As I have often said to my students, since you have created almost all of your personal problems, you should have no problems finding the time and energy to solve them. Nothing is forever. This is China.


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