The age-old tradition of matchmaking in China has not died; it has only evolved with the times. These days, parents advertise their unwed and overworked children’s qualifications in literal marriage markets, usually held in parks all over the country. But Chinese singles, themselves, are not so helpless; many are actively engaged in Chinese dating online.
While marriage markets are keeping China’s matchmaking tradition alive and well, Chinese dating online has quickly become a hugely thriving marriage market in its own right. In fact, it has become such a profitable trend, not only for the Chinese dating sites but also for “shoppers” or seekers of mates, that Analysis International predicts it to rake in 2 billion yuan in annual revenue by 2014. (Source: http://english.people.com.cn/90782/8099269.html)
Online dating, which originated in the west, in many ways is a much more casual and unconstrained style of western dating. So it is a bit surprising that the industry has taken off with such success in a society which is still largely traditional, especially when it comes to relationships and marriage.
Another surprising development is how the Chinese have re-shaped the online dating scene to suit their needs and even fit into their custom of finding a mate, instead of allowing this very modern trend to change their values and attitudes toward dating and relationships. Indeed, leading and legitimate Chinese online dating sites promote themselves as marriage websites, where singles have excellent opportunities to meet potential lifetime partners, not casual encounters.
The majority of Chinese singles that use Chinese dating sites to find their mate, whether also Chinese or foreign, still follow traditional practices and use traditional standards. Certainly, many are also putting emphasis on finding love and Mister/Miss Right, but they continue to uphold Confucian values when choosing a potential partner.
For example, many still place a lot of importance on a potential match’s education level, economic status, age, height, family background, and hukou. Those with hukous, or residency permits in a top-tier city are considered more desirable than others. Single Chinese women prefer men with equal or higher educational and economic standing, while the men prefer women with lesser qualifications. These are the same qualifications that are sought out by “shoppers” in marriage markets held in public parks, and that have been used to measure a person’s suitability as a partner throughout most of China’s history.
It has been pointed out that China’s high rates of urban migration have significantly contributed to the Chinese online dating industry boom. As more Chinese seek out better economic opportunities in the cities, they also effectively cut off their ties to their traditional social networks back home and effectively isolate themselves. The demands of life and work in the cities also extremely limit their chances to create new social networks and, thus, their opportunities to meet potential mates.
The online dating industry has given them very convenient tools to overcome the obstacles to dating that a migrant worker lifestyle inevitably brings.
Additionally, the popularity of online dating to Chinese singles has opened up doors for foreign “players” (in the best sense of the word) to join the Chinese dating scene and for Chinese women, in particular, to cast their nets wider.
Indeed, Chinese online dating has paved the way for countless, happy, cross-cultural relationships and marriages. While foreign seekers of Chinese partners bring with them their western attitudes toward love and relationships, Chinese seekers continue to uphold their traditional values. At the outset, the whole scenario may seem to be set up for failure; but, surprisingly, it has been shown to work many, many times, as proven by the numerous cross-cultural couples that now live happy, married lives.
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