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James Donaldson’s Big Adventure in China – Leftover women or an unappreciated feast in China?

I thought I’d share this recent article from China Daily that depicts pretty accurately the single life for professional women here in China.  Imagine us using the term “Leftover Women” back home in the United States?  All of that “PC” stuff that we use in the States, doesn’t even begin to play out here.

I can’t tell you how many young, beautiful, intelligent professional women have come up to me in China and asked me to help them find a husband.  Wow!  Here I am in a photo with a friend of mine who I had dinner with recently.  We went out with a bunch of friends, and as soon as will the conversation started up, everyone pointed over to her and said “she’s looking for husband, and you have to help her”.  She eagerly shook her head affirmatively, and said “yes, please help me find a husband”.

So I was given the task from my friends to help my new friend, Mia from Beijing, find a husband.  So, here we go:

Mia is 32 years old, professional, intelligent, works as an executive assistant for one of my business partners, athletic, and as you can see by her standing next to me – tall (about 5’8″), speaks near flawless English and has a fantastic personality.  What’s wrong with her?  Heck if I know!  Just kidding there.  As far as I can see so far, she’s pretty close to perfect.

I’m trying to “coach” her on keeping our standards relatively high, and find someone who would be a good partner for her.  So here goes fellas.  She’s looking for someone who is a real gentleman (hard to find in China!),  is at least as tall as she is, takes good care of himself, has a job/education, fun and a good personality, and ready to be serious about marriage and family.  Sounds pretty basic to me! Ah… you might want to think about moving to China, or at least being “bi-continental”, and you’d really knock her socks off if you were willing to learn a little Chinese.

My business partner teasingly told me that our business deal hinges on me finding Mia a husband. (smile!) I think he was teasing, I hope he was teasing.  But I’ll help out any way I can.

Actually, as you read the article below, you’ll see that Mia is very typical for the young professional women in China.  Women are making rapid strides in China and around the world, therefore many of them get to that certain point where they’re trying to balance a career and personal life.  China isn’t  like back in the United States where people are “serial daters”.  The people in China are highly social and depend a lot on each other to help them find prospective partners.  I’ve met near 30-year-old men and women who have never held hands with the opposite sex, never kissed, wouldn’t know what to do with someone that they’re attracted to, and of course, many of them are very socially awkward unless they get their friends/family to be supportive first.

With the “one child per family” policy that’s been going on for over 30 years in China, now all of these “thirty somethings” are hitting that point in life where they’re looking for suitable partners for marriage and family. Oh yes, culturally there is tremendous pressure from the families put on these only children to “get their act together”, especially, unfortunately on the women.

The “one child per family policy” has created a significant imbalance of about 120 men per every 100 women under 35 years of age here in China.  You would think that the women would have their pick of an overabundance of guys, but it doesn’t quite work that way since most of the guys probably wouldn’t be considered “marriage material”, especially in regards to the very “class conscious” society that China is. Besides… have you seen some of the guys here in China?!

So, besides focusing on school work, getting your career underway, and hanging out with your peer group, many of the young Chinese professionals suddenly look up and realize that it’s time to get a personal life as well.

Anyway, just wanted to share with you some of the social aspects, especially for young professionals, here in China.  Enjoy the article.

Leftover women or an unappreciated feast?IMG_1845

Updated: 2013-09-28 08:51

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2013-09/28/content_17001219.htm

In China, single women in their 30s have become the target of attention for the wrong reason, not for their professional achievements but for their perceived undesirable marital status. This is the result of applying outdated yardsticks to a significant new social phenomenon.

The biggest news story gripping China for the past two weeks is a trivial one. It involves only two people – Faye Wong and Li Yapeng – who announced on Sept 13 that they had just divorced.

Wong is a superstar singer whose every move is covered by reporters or paparazzi. Li is an actor with a lower profile, a second-tier star, you could say.

Leftover women or an unappreciated feast?

They were married in 2005. For the first couple of years of their marriage, few bet that it would last. Apart from the chasm in professional achievements, there was also the age gap. Wong is two years older – although she used to date Nicolas Tse, a singer-actor 11 years her junior.

But the Wong-Li divorce shocked many because they seemed to have overcome the seven-year itch, so to speak.

Now I’m not in a position to comment on their marriage and the ultimate separation. What little I gathered about them was from their micro blog postings, such as Li’s remark: “I wanted a family, but you’re destined to be a legend.”

Wong does not have a busy career, it seems. She commands such exorbitant fees that she once retired for five years before returning to the concert stage.

In other words, Wong is not the best representative of a group of women so successful that few men are qualified to be their match.

But in urban China, a demographic of young career women has emerged. These are white-collar professional women, often in management positions, and with great looks to boot. But they are considered dangerously close to “being beyond marriageable age”.

They are called the “leftover women” in China.

One has to remember that China has a surplus of men, which, according to some surveys, will reach 30 million by the year 2020. How can a woman be too old to find a spouse in such a gender-skewed society?

Yet, the “leftover women” phenomenon has its own twisted logic. Chinese tradition has it that people marry their social peers, or in old parlance, “the houses and doors should match between the two sides”. When a disparity in social rank exists, men tend to marry downwards while women do the opposite.

For example, a woman from a poor family would usually want to marry someone from a slightly richer family, or into a richer village, as a means of ridding herself, and maybe even her whole family, of the stigma associated with her social status. A man, on the other hand, when failing to find someone from his own social circle, can go a step lower.

I’m not ruling out such factors as romantic love and personality. China is a very class-conscious society. Whether in the old days, when matchmaking nannies were active, or in the current age of so-called “free love”, people are acutely aware of even the smallest difference in social ranking or wealth. That’s why literary classics in China invariably portray a rich girl falling for a poor boy and walking down the aisle only after he attains officialdom and the prosperity that comes with it. Otherwise it would end in tragedy, as in The Butterfly Lovers.

This class reshuffling results in more single males than females on the lowest rung of the social ladder and, at the top, the reverse, but on a lesser scale. The latter has caught more attention simply because it is happening in the nation’s gleaming office towers and posh apartments.

Traditionally, women in China suffered all kinds of discrimination. Even now, a century after binding feet was outlawed, many parents still prefer sons over daughters. The continually leveling playing field, though, has provided Chinese women with more and more opportunities. One cannot say we have reached absolute equality, but clearly women are winning in many fields. There are more of them in colleges. In workplaces they are beating men, not only in professions where women traditionally excel, but in those that have been dominated by men.

I’ve heard of employers who would lower their standards drastically for male prospects. We don’t have an equivalent for “affirmative action”, but de facto measures of protection exist in many areas for men because they are the weak ones and would not have a chance of survival in an environment of fair competition.

And don’t accuse men of this bias. The employers and recruiters who engage in such practices – I mean the ones I personally know – are all women. In a way, they are trying to rectify the gender imbalance by employing less competent men.

No wonder then that women who have come out ahead have difficulty finding suitable men. Most men would not have the guts to ask them out in the first place. And men who are equally successful tend to already have spouses or want to date someone younger – often much younger.

Adding to the dilemma is the poison of demonization. Career-oriented women are often portrayed as tough and mean to everyone around them. A recent movie by Barbara Wong, The Stolen Years, depicts a happily married young woman who gets a big promotion and turns “bitchy”, alienating every friend and colleague, even her husband. They divorce. Then she has a traffic accident, which wipes the past five years from her memory. She regains her wonderful old self. Talk about stereotyping.

The term “leftover women” has taken on a sardonic connotation. In my opinion, it is blown out of proportion. Women who are 35 are desirable in every way. It’s just that they are out of reach of those who secretly desire them. They may choose to be single or they may have a steady relationship. Not tying the knot does not really mean much in this day and age.

However, we have to admit there are those who are unable to find dates because of their excellence. For them, the remedy seems to be one of two choices: either you take a step down or you bend down to reach someone lower. Lowering oneself in career and income potential does not seem reasonable, but dating and marrying someone younger and less wealthy requires removing psychological barriers only.

Another recent romantic comedy starring the stunner Fan Bingbing has her simultaneously pursuing her boss and being pursued by a younger man she supervises. She doesn’t take the latter seriously because she hates the prospect of being called his mother when they walk into their sunset years. Eventually she relents and accepts his love.

It’s certainly unconventional to some Chinese, but then dating someone before marriage was also unconventional 100 years ago.

The female stars of China, including Faye Wong, could be blazing a trail in areas other than their arts. When Fan Bingbing was asked about “marrying into a household of great affluence” as female stars are supposed to, she replied: “I don’t need to use marriage to obtain wealth. I AM the house of great affluence.”

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