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“Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” – China’s Marriage Rates Keep Dropping

China’s marriage rates have hit a new low, but Weibo’s singletons blame their unmarried status on circumstances beyond their control.

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China’s dropping marriage rates have been a hot topic in Chinese newspapers and on Chinese social media recently. Chinese netizens and state media, however, seem to have different views on what lies at the root of the matter.

“Marriage rates are dropping year by year,” state media outlet People’s Daily writes on Weibo this week: “Statistics show that more and more people are less willing to get married every year (..). Experts point out that younger people are more focused on themselves and how they feel, rather than how they appear to others.”

“At the same time,” People’s Daily continues: “Marriage is no longer the sole option to obtain economic independence and a happy life for young people. Additionally, with the continuous development of societal standards, the costs of marriage have gone up, and many people don’t want to marry.”

With its social media post, People’s Daily introduced the Weibo hashtag “Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” (#你为啥不结婚#), which had received over 22 million views a day after it was posted.

Over recent weeks, many Chinese media have reported on how China’s marriage rates have hit a new low since 2013, with only 7.2 out of 1000 people getting married in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Marriage rates [per 1000 population] since 2008 (via China Business Industry Research Data Center 中商业产业研究大数据库).

With a rapidly aging population and dropping birth rates, China’s falling marriage rates are a source of worry for many experts.

In 2015, some well-known scholars already urged Chinese younger generations to get married and produce offspring, writing: “For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of personal happiness?”

The only places where the marriage rates are still going somewhat strong are in some of China’s more impoverished areas, including Tibet, Qinghai, Anhui, and Guizhou, suggesting that there’s a clear correlation between the rise in living standards and declining marriage rates.

Although Chinese state media outlets, such as People’s Daily, Xinhua, or China Women’s Daily, do mention the rising costs of living and the fact that many among Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” with some not marrying at all, they do not mention other reasons that might explain the recent decline in marriage rates.

 

Leftover Men, Leftover Women, and Rising Bride Prices

 

Over recent years, various trends on Chinese social media have highlighted the existing social issues behind China’s dropping marriage rates. In 2015, it was China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men who were pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy and general preference for baby boys.

The fact that one survey, albeit small-scale, pointed out that 50% of Chinese single men think that women who are still single at the age of 25 are ‘leftovers’ might also not be helpful in boosting marriage rates.

image by whatsonweibo.com

For some years, ‘leftover women’ were mentioned as a reason for China’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were sometimes singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This has increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

And then there is the issue of staggering bride prices in those areas where ‘bride prices’ are still a custom: within a timeframe of 17 years, bride prices in China’s rural areas have increased more than sixty-fold. For many unmarried men in some Chinese provinces, marriage has simply become an unattainable goal.

All in all, with a surplus of (rural) men, more (urban) educated, career-oriented women, strong traditional views on the ‘right’ marriage age for women, a higher cost of living, and a rising bride price for the relatively few women of marriage age in rural areas, it is perhaps too easy to say that postponing marriage is simply a matter of ‘choice’ or ‘preference’ for China’s younger generations.

 

Changing Policies

 

The many comments on Weibo to the question “Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” also show that there is no straightforward answer to China’s dropping marriage rates, and that’s it is not merely a matter of preference.

“You first propagated for years that we were supposed to ‘get married late and give birth late’ (晚婚晚育) in addition to ‘fewer and healthier births’ (少生优生), now you change your tune and we’re to blame?” one popular comment says.

At the time of the one-child policy, propaganda posters and state media encouraged people to postpone marriage and childbirth in order to help control China’s population growth. Various policies were introduced to make people marry later. The ‘late marriage leave,’ for example, allowed people to take a 30-day paid leave when getting married over the age of 25. That particular policy was canceled in 2016.

The aforementioned commenter is not the only one showing their frustration with changing policies on marriage and childbirth. “[I’m not married] because the government first told us to marry late and have children late,” another netizen writes: “I’m just being obedient.”

Similar sentiments were also expressed after the one-child policy was canceled, allowing couples, or even encouraging them, to have a second child. “The person who was forced to have an abortion then, is the same person who is pressured to have a baby now,” some people on Weibo said.

With some people joking that the government will arrange things for them anyway, their answer to the marriage question is: “I am waiting for the state to assign me to someone.”

“I am waiting for the state to bring me a handsome man. I’ve been searching for him all over, but can’t find him anywhere,” others say.

Apart from these comments, the most recurring answers to why people are not married yet include the following:

– “Young people doing 996 [working from 9am-9pm, 6 days a week] don’t have time for love and raising children.”

– “Why would I get married, I’m getting along fine by myself.”

– “I can’t afford a house, can’t afford to raise kids, can’t afford to get married.”

– “Get married if you like, stay single if you like, in the end, we’ll all regret it anyway.”

The most recurring and upvoted comments were also the shortest ones: “Because I’m poor.”

Meanwhile, on Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, it seems that some are making a profit out of the dreaded “Why aren’t you married” question. Various sellers are selling phone covers and t-shirts with the question printed on it. The answer, underneath, is loud and clear: “Mind your own damn business.”

Also read: Mirror of Time: Chinese Weddings Through the Decades

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Xi’an Outbreak Largely Under Control, But Weibo is Grieving the Death of an Unborn Baby

On the 15th day of lockdown, Xi’an has largely brought the Covid19 outbreak under control, but at what cost?

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“Are we really fighting this epidemic to save lives?”, some wonder after Xi’an enters its 16th day of a very strict and sometimes messy lockdown. The story of a pregnant woman having a miscarriage in front of the hospital gate has brought the public’s anger to a boiling point.

On January 4th at around 4.30 pm, a Weibo user nicknamed ‘Don’t Make It Rain Ok’ posted a heartbreaking story on social media about her pregnant aunt, who lost her baby on January 1st when she did not receive medical care in time and was left waiting outside of the hospital. It was one among multiple stories showcasing the struggles faced by thousands of citizens during the Xi’an lockdown, the biggest one in China since Wuhan was shut down in 2020.

While the story about the pregnant woman was top trending on Weibo on Wednesday and Thursday, the Xi’an city government declared that the Covid19 situation in the city of 13 million inhabitants was reaching the phase of “zero in society” (“社会面清零”), meaning that the outbreak was largely contained in the city’s main communities after two weeks of lockdown, during which over 42,000 people were quarantined and brought to other locations.

But rather than cheers of joy, Weibo was dominated by sad stories of people whose lives have been seriously impacted by the restrictions and hurdles they face in times of a lockdown that was mismanaged by local authorities, according to many.

The woman losing her unborn baby because of severely delayed emergency services struck a chord with a lot of netizens. This is a translation of the original post, which was removed from social media without given reason on January 6:

My aunt said on January 1st 2022 at around 7:00 pm that her stomach hurt, so she called 120 [emergency telephone number]. But 120 was constantly busy and there was no way to get through. Only when she called 110 [police] she was taken to Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital (高新医院). After all this, it was already past 8 pm before she arrived, but she eventually was at the entrance and still wasn’t allowed to get in, the delay lasting until after 10 pm – she was told her nucleic acid [test] had exceeded the four-hour time frame. My aunt sat down at the entrance for a while, and because the delay was lasting so long, she was starting to bleed. I saw the video sent by my aunt’s husband, seeing my aunt struggling to support her body with both hands sitting on the chair, blood flowing down the chair and down her pants, the floor was full of blood! Also because of the excessive bleeding, the hospital staff saw it really wasn’t going well and only then was she admitted and taken into the surgery room. As a result of the untimely medical treatment, my aunt had a miscarriage after carrying the baby for eight months. At eight months, the baby died in the womb without a pulse because of wasted time. Originally I was thinking of telling this story on another platform, but I actually just saw in my Moments [WeChat timeline] that a friend posted a screenshot of another story told by someone and I discovered we are not the only ones to go through something like this at this hospital. I just wept. My aunt also has an 11-year old son who is alone by himself, looking after himself, he still doesn’t know what happened to my aunt – he just knows her belly hurt.”

The incident sparked outrage on social media, where one hashtag dedicated to the topic received 780 million views on Thursday alone (#西安孕妇流产事件相关责任人被处理#) after it was publicly announced that the hospital’s general manager Fu Yuhui (范郁会) would be suspended and that the staff responsible for the incident at the outpatient department were fired.

The hospital was ordered to publicly apologize for the incident, and the local Health Commission director also made an apology.

But the apologies did not seem to reduce the anger many expressed online.

“Are we fighting the epidemic to save lives?”, one popular blogger wondered in an article dedicated to the incident (“西安孕妇医院门口流产:抗疫,是为了救命啊“) published on January 6th. The author argues that the ultimate purpose of China’s epidemic prevention and control is to save lives and that a hospital and its staff should do everything in their power to save people’s lives rather than letting them suffer outside of their door with the excuse of ‘epidemic prevention and control.’ In the end, a person’s life is more important than their Health Code and the last time they did a Covid test.

The story of the miscarriage was not the only one going viral these days relating to people not being able to get the medical help they need. One story to go viral on January 3rd was that of one Xi’an resident (@太阳花花花00000) reaching out for help via social media platform Xiaohongshu because her father suffered from chest pains and they could not get through to emergency telephone lines fast enough. The original poster later updated their post to share that he had passed away.

The man’s daughter later clarified in the media that her father was refused access to medical services at multiple hospitals before he also encountered issues at Gaoxin Hospital where he did receive treatment at 10pm – an astonishing eight hours after reaching out to emergency services. He reportedly passed away due to the severe delay in this treatment (#西安网友称父亲被多家医院拒诊后离世#).

Then there was another pregnant woman (@A有雨有晴天) who allegedly suffered a miscarriage after being refused to be taken to the hospital (#西安又一孕妇流产 警察护送被拒诊#). She came out with her story on January 5th, but it happened on December 29th. The woman claims that she sought help but that various hospitals refused to take her in during the extreme lockdown circumstances.

On January 5th and 6th, the death of a 39-year-old man also sparked online anger. According to online reports, the man could not get through to emergency services on December 31st while suffering from severe chest pains. He was refused to be taken in by two hospitals because he supposedly did not have a current negative Covid19 test result. He died shortly after being taken in by a third hospital. A hashtag dedicated to the incident received over 150 million views on January 6 (#西安一男子连续被3家医院拒诊最终猝死#).

“Help the helpless!”, some on Weibo wrote: “What would you do if these were your loved ones?!”

“How many people have passed away due to this kind of ‘prevention and control’?”, other commenters wondered: “What is wrong with the Xi’an authorities?”

Besides the staff fired at the Gaoxin Hospital, the Municipal Discipline Inspection Commission reportedly also gave official warnings to the local deputy secretary and Xi’an Emergency Center director Li Qiang (李强) and local Health Commission director Liu Shunzhi (刘顺智) for not properly fulfilling their duties regarding emergency work during the lockdown.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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