BY XIE WENTING
FEELING lonely? If you’re among the 200 million young Chinese who haven’t gotten hitched yet, the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) is now doing its best to find you a spouse.
In May, He Junke, a senior official with the CYLC Central Committee, said in a press conference that the CYLC is determined to solve the “marriage problem” and will help young people to develop a “correct attitude” toward love and marriage.
CYLC, a national youth movement run by the Communist Party of China, used to be a revolutionary organ, but now its role includes being a matchmaker.
Last month, the Zhejiang Province branch of the CYLC kicked off a huge blind date event, as part of the CYLC’s national initiative.
Over 10,000 people looking for love showed up, but only 2,000 got the chance to meet others in the main venue.
“We aim to combat the single population issue. There is a large demand for partners among young people. As we now live in a highly mobile society and as young people are delaying their entry into society, this generation faces more problems in finding lovers than those from the previous generation,” Wang Jun, an official with the Zhejiang CYLC, told the Global Times.
While many welcome the CYLC’s new role, some other questions whether it is intervening too much in people’s private lives.
A perfect match
Wang Lingwei, a 26-year-old singleton from a university in East China’s Zhejiang province, met 500 men at a CYLC event last month.
“Getting involved in such a large-scale blind dating event felt weird at first, but I got used to it and in the end I had fun,” Wang said.
Wang was frank about how desperate she is to find a partner.
“I study English and there are few men in my department. And my social circle is small. I don’t have too many opportunities to meet eligible bachelors,” she said.
She got a ticket to attend the CYLC mass blind date because her teacher –a former CYLC employee—vouched for her. She managed to find a suitable fellow but the relationship didn’t last because she was too busy with an internship.
Wang Jun said the event’s participants were chosen based on the recommendations of local CYLC branches. They mostly came from government organizations, state-owned companies and colleges.
These people have guaranteed jobs for life, also known as the “iron rice bowl.” In the blind-dating market, people with permanent jobs generally have an edge over those working in private companies.
Wang Jun said that policemen are particularly popular. “This may be because policemen fulfill women’s fantasies of having a strong man to protect them,” he said.
“In choosing a life partner, mendang hudui (an ancient concept meaning marriage should be between families of equal economic and social status) still works today. And the concept should be expanded to include equal educational background, job and some others.”
Wang Lingwei said that she trusts the CYLC as the participants of its activities are of high quality—with decent educations and stable jobs.
Following the CYLC call, many of its 3.87 million local branches have organized blind dates across the country.
But they are not alone. There are agencies which provide similar services for unmarried people working at government and state-owned companies.
Yangwu Queqiao provides blind dating services for singles working in national ministries, the Beijing government and organizations directly under central government bodies.
Some 62 percent of its 10,000 members are female, mostly aged between 28 and 35. Its success rate is about 30 percent, reported the China Women’s News.
In a country with more men than women, ladies looking for a partner can afford to be picky and choose spouses that are better off than they are. This desire to trade up has generated the stereotype that “left-over” men are uneducated farmers and “left-over” women are educated urbanites.
There is some evidence for this. While China is set to have 30 million “left-over” men over 35 by 2030, women dominate the urban blind dating scene.
Zhang Yang, the director of Yangwu Queqiao, told the China Women’s News that one-third of its members in their 30s have no dating experience.
Wang Jun said that nowadays, young people spend a long time in school and are therefore trying to settle down later. “Also, in this highly mobile society, most young people leave their hometown to work in big cities. They don’t have friends and relatives to introduce them to potential partners.”
He Junke claimed that too many young people hold excessively utilitarian and materialist views of marriage.
In response, government blind dating organizations are trying to educate people in the “correct” values.
The Zhejiang CYLC told its young single members not to pay too much attention to appearances, and to give people a chance.
In one role-playing exercise, one singleton told his “girlfriend” that she should quit her job and that he would pay her way after she was criticized by her boss.
“This is the wrong attitude. Our dating expert intervened and told the man this isn’t the right way to address this problem. Money isn’t almighty,” Wang Jun said.
When it was reported that the CYLC was hooking people up, some netizens joked that “although we missed the era when jobs were arranged, we now have the government helping us arrange our marriages.”
The government intervening in love lives is nothing new, however. For decades, couples looking to marry needed to have a recommendation from their work unit. Soldiers still need to get this kind of official approval.
But Ah Jiang (pseudonym), a 27-year-old public servant in Zhejiang, told the Global Times that the government isn’t really arranging marriages.
“I was free to participate in this activity and was not pressured. We have demands and need to be organized, so they provided a platform for us,” he said.
His opinion is echoed by Wang Lingwei, who emphasized that “registration is voluntary and so is participating in the activities. And they won’t pair you with a man you dislike.”
China’s matchmaking industry is lucrative. There are many marriage agencies which charge their clients up to tens of thousands of yuan.
But government platforms provide free services, including a two-day trip to a scenic spot from time to time.
They also provide words of wisdom from retired women—helpful for those whose families live far away. These “matchmakers” track a couple’s courtship and provide them with advice. Wang Jun said that the supply of such retired women actually outstrips demand.
Another advantage to government blind dating organizations is that their official status allows them to easily check people’s backgrounds.
In Zhejiang, the CYLC is able to verify the information of every singleton as most of them are recommended by their local CYLC.
“We work closely with the Zhejiang police department to check the backgrounds of those who register on their own,” Wang Jun said. Currently only those with a Zhejiang hukou (household registration) can register on their own. Beijing’s Yangwu Queqiao collects information from employers.
This avoids the problem of getting matched with shady characters, reports of which emerge from time to time in the media.
Singletons a potential problem
Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University, told the Global Times in a previous report that the number of single people getting too large may harm social stability.
“A large population of single men might also cause many other social problems such as sexual violence, women and child trafficking, not to mention the pension burden they will bring about when they get old,” Yuan said.
Ma Tianqin wrote a commentary article on news website people.cn, pointing out that the CYLC is facing the problem directly.
“Although their intentions are good, one problem shouldn’t be overlooked, which is the changing of popular perceptions of love and marriage … If we only emphasize that the ‘organization creates favorable conditions for people,’ it will incur misunderstandings about being pushed into marriage. And it may also make some people think the CYLC cares too much,” said Ma.
However, for desperate singletons like Wang Lingwei and Ah Jiang, the CYLC is offering the best solution.