“Stop harassing! »: Why Young Chinese Adults Resist Marriage and Babies | China

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EIn early January, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency released a video reminding young Chinese men born in the year 2000 that they could get married. “Post-00s have reached the legal age of marriage,” he said.

The hashtag quickly appeared in the list of most searched news topics on Weibo, but many read it as an attempt by the government to pressure them. “Who dares to get married these days? Don’t we need to make money? we wondered. “Stop harassing me!” says another.

According to Chinese law, men can marry from the age of 22 and women from the age of 20. Last week, the Chinese government announced that its population growth rate had fallen to its lowest level in 61 years, with births barely exceeding deaths in 2021, despite efforts to encourage Chinese couples to have babies at home. recent years.

“The attitude of young Chinese people towards marriage poses a big threat to Beijing’s efforts to change the impending demographic crisis,” said Dr Ye Liu, senior lecturer at King’s College London’s Lau China Institute. “Coupled with a higher level of education and economic improvement, this will become a bigger headache in the years to come.”

Growing numbers of young people in East Asian societies are delaying marriage as the region becomes more prosperous. Yet in urban China, this change has been particularly rapid, said Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. Comparing Chinese census data from 1990 and 2015, Wang said the share of never-married Chinese women in their late 20s had increased eightfold in 25 years.

Census data from the 2000s and 2010s show that young Chinese college graduates between the ages of 25 and 29 are the most likely to be single. And women in developed Chinese cities, in particular, have less ambition to marry.

On social networks and in everyday life, resistance to early marriage is strongly displayed. In 2017, for example, a Shanghai-based chamber choir struck a chord with millions of young Chinese facing the same dilemma across the country. The viral song Spring Festival Survival Guide – or What I Do Is For Your Own Good in English – told insistent Chinese parents: “My dear family, please let me live my own life.

Vicky Liu, originally from northern Tianjin and born in 1997, is one of these young Chinese. She said as soon as she graduated with a master’s degree in England last year, her parents started arranging blind dates for her. “But I am a grown woman. I want a career and a good circle of friends. I just don’t want to be tied down to a family life too soon.

Couples in China’s younger generation want “to have it all – career and family as well as personal fulfillment”, says an expert. Photography: Roman Pilipey/EPA

This attitude has further alarmed the authorities as the decline in population growth has become more evident in recent years. To buck the trend, Beijing scrapped the one-child policy in 2015, and last May introduced a three-child policy. One economist, Ren Zeping, even suggested that the government should print more money to fund a baby boom. Ren was banned from posting on social media following this comment.

But Ye Liu, of Kings College London, said these policies are “masculine” and “out of touch” with the reality facing China’s Gen Z today. “What they want is a better professional future, an opportunity to have it all – career and family as well as personal fulfillment. Without this, it is difficult to convince them to have babies first,” said she declared.

This is especially the case for young Chinese women, she added. “Chinese Gen Z women are more educated than previous generations. They are more likely to prioritize their careers over marrying after a college education.

Wang agreed and said that in reality Chinese women were “severely underrepresented” in political and economic power. “China has a long way to go to create a more gender-equitable society. But the difficulty here is that this cannot be achieved simply through the state issuing policy documents.

Yi Fuxian of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also author of Big Country with an Empty Nest, said there were concrete steps the government could take to ease the situation. “For example, job opportunities for young Chinese and help with the cost of living – especially the cost of real estate. The government should also make it easier for young couples to raise children.

For Vicky Liu, there is more than that. “[My parents’] the logic is that as a woman I don’t have too much time to find an ideal husband. For them, I must get married, be pregnant and become a mother as soon as possible. Chinese parents simply won’t allow their daughters to stay single for too long.

With the help of Xiaoqian Zhu

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