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The Shengnu Dilemma: (Don’t) Marry Before You’re 30

Do (not) get married before you’re 30? It is an issue many netizens are concerned about.

Manya Koetse

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A new video by skincare brand SK-II on the topic of the marriage pressure faced by China’s single women has become popular on Sina Weibo. With best-selling books like ‘Don Not Marry Before You’re 30’ (30岁前别结婚) and ‘You Should Marry Before You’re 30’ (30岁前要结婚) hitting the Chinese market, the dilemma of China’s ‘leftover women’ consistently is a hot topic in China’s current popular culture.

In the follow-up to the Marriage Market Takeover video that made international headlines, skincare brand SK-II recently released a new video about finding “Mr. Right”, featuring Chinese-American author Joy Chen.

The previous SK-II video showed the dilemma of single Chinese women whose parents tell them it’s high time to “fix the problem” of being unmarried. Should they follow the traditional ideas about marriage their parents have (“you get matched, you get married”), or choose their own path (“I want real love” and “I feel free and enjoy the single status”)? In the ad, the women express that they do not want to marry for the sake of marrying, even if it makes them feel guilty and selfish towards their family.

dilemma

In SK-II’s most recent video, that is also part of the brand’s Change Destiny (#改写命运#) campaign, Joy Chen talks about the pressure Chinese women are facing to get married and advises them to become their own ‘Ms. Right’ before searching for ‘Mr. Right’. Within a week of its release, it had over two million views and was shared over 2000 times on Sina Weibo.

Don’t Marry Before You’re 30

Joy Chen (陈愉) is the Chinese-American author of the book Do not Marry Before You’re 30 (30岁前别结婚), which was published in 2012.

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The book became a best-seller in China, where especially women are pressured to get married before the age of 30 – a recent survey pointed out that 50% of Chinese men think a woman is already ‘leftover’ when she is not married by the age of 25. The marriage pressure facing Chinese women worsened due to China’s unbalanced male-female ratio since the 1980s, where China has a surplus of men of marriageable age.

The All-China Women’s Federation issued a report in late 2015 that showed that over 90% of married women in China tie the knot before the age of 30 and that the average Chinese gets married at 26. It was the same All-China Women’s Federation that first defined the term shèngnǚ 剩女 a.k.a. ‘leftover woman’ in 2007 as single women older than 27, later broadening to include unmarried women over the age of 25 (Fincher 2014, 16).

In Do Not Marry Before You’re 30, Chen talks about her own experiences as a ‘leftover woman’. Despite her two graduate degrees and successful career (i.e. she became Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles at 31), her parents still stressed the importance of becoming a good wife and mother. But this is exactly where the problem lies, according to Chen; a myriad of Chinese young women are well-educated, hard-working, and full of talent, but are being held back by their families and society at large by the time they graduate and get their first jobs. “Why is an entire generation of otherwise outstanding young Chinese women faltering at the very moment when they should be taking flight?” Chen asks.

The answer lies in the ‘leftover women’ stigma that is permeated in Chinese society and, consciously or unconsciously, ingrained in women’s minds. Chen goes against the grain and argues that for women to be successful in life and love, they should first focus on gaining experience – both work-wise and romantically – before settling down. Since people are still developing throughout their 20s, it is better to postpone marriage until you are ready to find the right person and make it work.

You Should Marry Before You’re 30

There are many books on the Chinese market that propagate a very different message. One of them is by author Xu Li (徐黎), who wrote a self-help book titled You Should Marry Before You’re 30 (30岁前要结婚) in 2013.

marrybefore

The book is a self-proclaimed “roadmap to happiness”. In this book, Xu says that China’s single women often flaunt their frivolous single lifestyle, but as they get older, they grow more anxious about their single status, which eventually will not make them happy. Xu’s message to women is not to wait with finding a partner until they are desperate, but to settle down while they are still carefree and relaxed about it.

Xu says that well-educated women all make the same mistake: “They think the more educated they are, the more charming they will be. But they do not know that a woman’s charm is not determined by her education record” (5). She also writes that women should “wake up”, as “nobody will only love you for your ambitions – you have to give them a reason to love you” (216).

At the same time, Xu propagates women to be independent within their marriage: “Ladies, if you want both financial support and emotional consideration from a relationship, then make sure you also make money, struggle and work. Love is not about being dependent, it is about strengthening each other’s independence and then make the effort to make it work together” (217).

The book’s main message is to settle down before 30 since it is easier for women to find a partner when they are in their twenties, and because it gives a couple the time to grow into a marriage together. As she says: “Some say that marriage is the end of love, but it is just the beginning.”

Becoming Ms. Right

In the latest SK-II video, the author of Do Not Marry Before You’re 30 talks about the right path to love. “In our society, our mothers urge us to marry early,” she says: “But our goal should not be marriage, it should be love. We first have to understand ourselves and grab this opportunity to become Miss Right, after which we can find a Mister Right that really suits us.” Chen tells she started dating at 18, did not get married until 38, and had her children at age 39 and 41.

joychen

Chen says that this is the first time in Chinese history that women have so many options when it comes to marriage and career. One’s twenties and thirties should be about making choices and finding one’s way, Chen says, and about realizing your own dreams.

“Not marrying is also an option”

The video and overall ‘Change Destiny’ campaign has received much support from Chinese netizens, who, in great numbers, share their views on the issue.

Many female Weibo netizens have been inspired by the campaign and post pictures of themselves with a written statement to choose their own destiny and to not let society or family put pressure on them to marry for the sake of marriage.

statement

There are also those who stress the commercial aspect of the video: “SK-II, we have to buy, buy, buy!” Others say: “This brand does really understand its target audience.”

Some netizens write that with all this focus on marrying and finding Mr. Right, one would almost forget that not marrying is also an option: “One should just live a wonderful life, which doesn’t necessarily include marriage,” one netizen comments. Another user says: “If my career goes well, I might choose not to get married.”

– By Manya Koetse

References

-Chen, Joy. 2012. 30岁前别结婚 [Do Not Marry Before You’re 30]. Beijing: 中信出版社
-Fincher, Leta Hong. 2014. Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. London: Zedbooks.
-Xu Li (徐黎). 2013. 30岁前要结婚 [You Should Marry Before You’re 30]. Beijing: 商务印书馆国际有限公司.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Brands & Marketing

The Price is Not Right: Corn Controversy Takes over Chinese Social Media

It’s corn! The “6 yuan corn” debate just keeps going.

Manya Koetse

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Recently there have been fierce discussions on Chinese social media about the price of corn after e-commerce platform Oriental Selection (东方甄选) started selling ears of corn for 6 yuan ($0.80) per piece.

The controversy caught the public’s attention when the famous Kuaishou livestreamer Simba (辛巴, real name Xin Youzhi), who has labeled himself as a ‘farmer’s son,’ criticized Oriental Selection for their corn prices.

Founded in 2021, Oriental Selection is an agricultural products e-commerce platform under New Oriental Online. In its company mission statement, Oriental Selection says its intention is to “help farmers” by providing the channels to sell their high-quality agricultural goods to online consumers.

Simba suggested that Oriental Selection was being deceitful by promising to help farmers while selling their corn for a relatively high price. According to Simba, they were just scamming ordinary people by selling an ear of corn that is worth 0.70 yuan ($0.10) for 6 yuan ($0.80), and also not really helping the farmers while taking 40% of their profits.

‘Sales king’ Xin Youzhi, aka Simba, was the one who started the current corn controversy.

During one of the following livestreams, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) – who also happens to be a farmer’s son – responded to the remarks and said there was a valid reason for their corn to be priced “on the high side.” Simba was talking about corn in general, including the kind being fed to animals, while this is high-quality corn that is already worth 2 yuan ($0.30) the moment it is harvested.

Despite the explanation, the issue only triggered more discussions on the right price for corn and about the fuzzy structure of the agricultural e-commerce livestreaming business.

Is it really too expensive to sell corn for 6 yuan via livestreaming?

The corn supplier, the Chinese ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂), is actually selling their own product for 3.6 yuan ($0.50) – is that an honest price? What amount of that price actually goes to the farmers themselves?

‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂).

One person responding to this issue via her Tiktok channel is the young farmer Liu Meina (刘美娜), who explained that Simba’s suggested “0.70 yuan per corn” was simply unrealistic, saying since it does not take the entire production process into account, including maintenance, packaging, transportation, and delivery.

Another factor mentioned by netizens is the entertainment value added to e-commerce by livestreaming channels. Earlier this year, Oriental Selection’s host Dong Yuhui and his colleagues became an online hit for adding an educational component to their livestreaming sessions.

These hosts were actually previously teachers at New Oriental. Facing a crackdown on China’s after-school tutoring, the company ventured into different business industries and let these former teachers go online to sell anything from peaches to shrimp via livestreaming, teaching some English while doing so (read more here). So this additional value of livestream hosts entertaining and educating their viewers should also be taken into account when debating the price of corn. Some call it “Dong Yuhui Premium” (“董宇辉溢价”).

Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) is one of the livestreamers that have turned New Oriental’s e-commerce into a viral hit.

In light of all the online discussions and controversy, netizens discovered that Oriental Selection is currently no longer selling corn (#东方甄选回应下架玉米#), which also became a trending topic on Weibo on September 29.

But the corn controversy does not end here. On September 28, Chinese netizens discovered that corn by the ‘Northeast Peasant Madame’ brand (东北农嫂) was being sold for no less than 8.5 yuan ($1.2) at the Pangdonglai supermarket chain (胖东来), going well beyond the price of Oriental Selection.

Trying to avoid a marketing crisis, the Pangdonglai chain quickly recalled its corn, stating there had been an issue with the supply price that led to its final store price becoming too high. That topic received over 160 million views on Weibo on Friday (#胖东来召回8.5元玉米#).

Behind all these online discussions are consumer frustrations about an untransparent market where the field of agricultural products has become more crowded and with more people taking a share, including retailers, e-commerce platforms, and livestreaming apps. Moreover, they often say they are “helping farmers” while they are actually just making money themselves.

One Weibo user commented: “Currently, ‘helping farmers’ is completely different from the original intention of ‘helping farmers.’ Right now, it’s not about helping farmers anymore, but about helping the companies who have made agricultural products their business.”

“I bought a corn at a street shop today for 4 yuan ($0.55),” one Weibo blogger wrote: “It was big, sweet, and juicy, the quality was good and it was tasty – and people are still making money off of it. So yes, 6 yuan for a corn is certainly too expensive.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Brands & Marketing

How Made-in-China ‘Magical’ Winter Essentials Are Keeping Europeans Warm Amid Energy Crisis

Chinese manufacturers of heating equipment are the “invisible champions” of Europe’s energy crisis.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese companies are profiting from Europe’s energy crisis. Made-in-China electric blankets, electric kettles, sleeping bags, and hot water bottles are flying off the shelves and Chinese factories are working around the clock to meet the demand of European consumers.

“Chinese Electric Blankets Are the Magic Weapon Keeping Europeans Warm This Winter” (#中国电热毯成欧洲人今冬御寒神器#) and “Explosive Sales of Chinese Electric Blankets to Europeans” (#欧洲人买爆中国电热毯#) are among the popular hashtags discussed on Chinese social media this week in light of Europe’s ongoing energy crisis.

Chinese companies are seeing booming sales of winter essentials recently. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is dealing with an energy crisis. Households and businesses across Europe are feeling the pinch: the shortage of natural gas has led to sky-high prices for heating and electricity. The explosions and subsequent gas leaks that occurred on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines on September 26 have only made prospects bleaker.

Looking for creative ways to stay warm and reduce energy bills, made-in-China products are in high demand among European consumers, and Chinese factories are scaling up their production to meet the growing demand.

According to Toutiao News, some manufacturers in Dongguan are seeing the highest sales numbers in half a decade; sales volumes have tripled compared to the same period last year. This requires the factory workers to work in shifts of three so the production can continue around the clock.

Electric blankets are especially popular as they are relatively affordable and more cost-effective as they require less electricity to run compared to electric heaters. Chinese electric blankets are generally cheaper than local options.

Chinese media describe Chinese electric blankets as the ‘magical weapons to defend against the cold’ (“御寒神器”).

The word shénqì (神器), meaning ‘magical tool’ or ‘magical weapon’, is often used to refer to products or objects that provide a simple or smart solution to a pressing problem, such as these paint buckets that became a viral hit during Spring festival travel season; this ‘magical’ device to prevent grannies from dancing underneath your window; or this gadget to take revenge on a noisy neighbor.

 

“Now there’s even a joke saying the Yiwu electric blanket sellers are the ones who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines.”

 

Besides electric blankets, other made-in-China ‘magical weapons’ that have become popular amongst European consumers include electric kettles, wearable sleeping bags, thermal underwear, and hot water bottles.

Electronic knee warmer.

As this topic of Chinese winter products “taking over Europe” recently became a hot topic on Chinese social media, some people commented on how the prices for these products were much higher in Europe than in China.

In Europe, a simple rubber hot water bottle is usually sold for around ten euros ($10) while the exact same products are sold for around five to ten yuan ($0.70-$1.5) in China.

In this way, the European energy crisis turns out to be a lucrative one for Chinese businesses. Some bigger companies also manufacturing electric blankets saw their stock prices rise.

One joke circulating on Chinese social media suggests that Chinese electric blanket sellers from manufacturing cities such as Yiwu are the ones who sabotaged the North Stream pipes.

“I never expected China to get part of the profits,” one popular comment said, with the following comment saying: “Thanks to the silly Europeans for making a contribution to our economy!”

“I heard they’re even looking [to buy] our Chinese birthday candles, they’ve gone mad,” one Weibo user wrote, while others jokingly wrote: “We’re the real winners.”

In light of the run on electric blankets, Chinese netizens also came up with some alternative suggestions to stay warm.

“It would be better if they’d wear long underwear pants,” one commenter suggests, while others say that people could just “make love to generate electricity.”

“Use a hot-water bottle and drink lots of hot water,” some write, while others recommend European consumers to buy more hand warmers.

Hand warmer sold on Taobao for 128 yuan ($18).

“I suggest them to buy our Xinjiang cotton quilts, they are sustainable and you can save on energy,” one Weibo user wrote in reference to last year’s Xinjiang cotton boycott.

One Weibo user drew their own conclusion in light of the current developments: “I think we could safely say that the world can do without Russians, but we’ll always need China.”

By Manya Koetse with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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