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China’s transition to a market economy has swept away many restrictions in people’s lives.But of all the new freedoms the Chinese enjoy today — making money, owning a house, choosing a career — there is one that has become an unexpected burden: seeking a spouse.Today, matchmaking has warped into a commercial free-for-all in which marriage is often viewed as an opportunity to leap up the social ladder or to proclaim one’s arrival at the top.Single men have a hard time making the list if they don’t own a house or an apartment, which in cities like Beijing are extremely expensive.These days, Western-style dating often only takes place in universities, where young people are beyond the supervision of their parents and can do what they want.One young man told The Times: “I’d like a girlfriend who is kind-hearted, who believes in me and is faithful.
In high school, we were not permitted to have boyfriends.Demographic changes, too, are creating complications. Not only are many more Chinese women postponing marriage to pursue careers, but China’s gender gap — 118 boys are born for every 100 girls — has become one of the world’s widest, fueled in large part by the government’s restrictive one-child policy.By the end of this decade, Chinese researchers estimate, the country will have a surplus of 24 million unmarried men.^-^ “Without traditional family or social networks, many men and women have taken their searches online, where thousands of dating and marriage Web sites have sprung up in an industry that analysts predict will soon surpass 0 million annually.It is often said – only half-jokingly – that to compete even at the lower reaches of the urban Chinese dating market men must have at least a car and a flat.The matchmaking industry has gone into overdrive, not just to cater to the rich but also because of government unease over the numbers of older single professional women.[Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^] “Although forced or arranged marriage was banned in 1950, finding a partner remains a formal process for many.“Marriage is seen as a factor in promoting social stability,” explains Leta Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book on “leftover women” and gender inequality in China.