At what age do Chinese get married

China's women: already old maids from 27

China's "leftover women" have little chance in the marriage market in their late twenties. Above all, educated, successful city dwellers suffer from social and family pressures.

Angel is sitting in a fancy bar in the financial center of Shanghai, sipping her drink. The 25-year-old studied and recently started working in a bank. She doesn't touch the artful nibbles in front of her. She has to be home by nine o'clock at the latest, says the petite Chinese woman. Your mother made soup. She should eat them every day to stay healthy and beautiful. She also has to pay attention to her figure. The clock is ticking. She still had two years to look for a partner and get married - then she was too old.

In China, single women aged 27 and over hardly have any chances on the marriage market. They are called "Shengnü", "remaining women". Ironically, the “All China Women's Federation”, a state women's rights organization founded in 1949, gave birth to the term in 2007. A cosmetics company revived the discussion with an emotional commercial. In the four-minute video, those affected report the great social and family pressure that weighs on them. “The Chinese believe that an unmarried woman is incomplete,” says one woman. “In China, one of the most important qualities is to respect parents. Not marrying is the greatest sign of disdain, ”says another.

Marriage is a family matter

Parents also have their say: “We always thought that our daughter had a great personality. But she looks average, is not very pretty. That's why she was left, ”says a mother, while her daughter fights back tears. Families spare no effort to get their offspring under the hood. All over China, parents haggle over good matches for their children at marriage markets. The most famous one takes place every weekend in the center of Shanghai: age, size, income and education of hundreds, especially female, singles are placarded here between trees and bushes.

Seven million unmarried women between the ages of 25 and 34 live in China's cities, according to a study by Qinghua University. And that of all things in a country with a lack of women: men traditionally have a higher status in Chinese society. Due to the decade-long one-child policy, which was relaxed in the previous year, many parents decided to abort female fetuses. The situation in rural areas is particularly precarious: there are sometimes 180 male singles over 15 years for every 100 unmarried women. In big cities like Shanghai, the ratio is more balanced at 123 to 100.

However, finding a partner remains difficult. Chinese tend to marry “down”. So it hits above all educated, successful city dwellers - allegedly seven percent of all university graduates stay alone up to the age of 45. They don't want to commit themselves too early and sacrifice their careers for being a housewife. On the other hand, their demands are high: the future should be educated, have a lot of money, a car and an apartment.

Power women on the advance

"Shengnü" is not just a cultural phenomenon, however, Leta Hong Fincher, author of the book "Leftover Women", recently told a Hong Kong newspaper. With the discussion, the government wants to urge educated women to marry earlier and have children: With this, they want to fight the so-called “low quality” of the population Stability. More and more city dwellers are deciding to defy the social pressure. "In contrast to remaining women, I have a career," says one of the victims in the commercial. "There is also a term for this: Power woman."

("Presse" print edition, April 12, 2016)