Communications officer Liu Maomao shared that she has a special contact list on the messaging apps QQ and WeChat. This a group of more than a dozen blind dates since last year. But she was not at all interested in it. She said she’s no longer “in the mood for love.”
Liu is among millions of young Chinese who choose not to marry or delay marriage.
This situation puts China in a deepening demographic crisis.
According to China’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the number of newly married couples has fallen to a record low since the first released data in 1985.
According to China’s census data, the average age for a person’s first marriage has increased from 24.89 in 2010 to 28.67 in 2020.
Jiang Quanbao, a demography professor at Xian Jiaotong University, said, “China may follow the trajectory of some neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea, in that average first-marriage age will continue to rise.”
Jiang added that for women with a university degree or higher, the proportion of those who are not married is quite high.
SCMP has interviewed some young Chinese people about why they have little hope for marriage.
First, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) three years of virus control have caused a lot of trouble in society and exacerbated the psychological crisis of young people. This policy was recently hastily ended after nearly three years of controlling society.
On the other hand, the costs of starting and maintaining marriage and family force many young to give up trying to get married.
Felisa Li, a public relations expert in Beijing, said that in the past year, China had launched many policies to promote the fertility rate in couples. Examples of policies that support child-rearing range from optimizing maternity leave to providing more public childcare services. However, this does not affect the underwater part of the iceberg.
Felisa said, “If you live in first-tier cities, you will need at least a two-bedroom flat if you want a child. I have a one-bedroom flat now and I’ve already tried my best.”
According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), despite a property slump, housing prices in major Chinese cities have largely remained untouched or even continued to rise in the past year.
Freelancer Qi, based in Beijing, said, “A few years ago, housing prices were also high, but young people still wanted to get married and have children because they had hopes for a better future. But now a lot of people are depressed, and they don’t think there is much hope for the future.”
Qi shared that the main reason for her depression is China’s draconian “Zero-COVID” policy. However, she wasn’t sure if the CCP would reinstate the strict rules.
She said, “… But will there be something similar in the future? We don’t know, and I don’t want my kid to live in such an environment.”
“Since I don’t have good expectations for the future, and I can’t even work out my own s***.” “Why do I have to bring another person—or even a third or fourth person—into it?”
Yao Yang, Director of the Chinese Economic Studies Center at Peking University, said the epidemic had pressured China’s falling birth rate.
Yao said in a seminar, “[Local authorities in] Beijing have not allowed the holding of wedding banquets for almost a year. The widespread mindset among Chinese people is that if a couple does not have a wedding banquet, they cannot be considered married, and if they are not married, it’s not appropriate to have children.”
For Charlotte Chen, 27, the pandemic has delayed her plans to marry and settle down with her boyfriend in Shanghai.
She said to SCMP, “now people are becoming more cautious about their future, and then more cautious about bearing housing loans. In China, even modern men and women can’t rid themselves of the mindset that buying a house is a prerequisite for marriage, and that creates a heavy burden for the couple, especially the man.”
For any Chinese couple, buying a home often falls on the husband’s shoulders. So for many men, no home means no wife.
In addition, Chinese men bear the brunt of the so-called betrothal—the money that future husbands pay to the bride’s family in many cultures.
Voice actor Liu Fei recently attended his friend’s wedding as a best man in a small town in Shaanxi province. He learned that the groom’s family spent more than $67,000 (470,000 yuan) on the bride’s betrothal.
According to NBS, in 2021, the per capita disposable income of rural residents in China was just over $2,700.
The 28-year-old Liu said, “It may be the life savings of the two parents, and only if they can save that much.
“I can’t wrap my head around starting a family, and I don’t know what kind of benefits marriage can bring me while I’m paying such a huge price. Not to mention it’s already so difficult to find someone I really like.”