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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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The Rules of the Game    

By Peter V
3419 Views | 11 Comments | 6/28/2010 5:53:17 PM
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One nice thing about a five-thousand year old culture is that there are rules. Many of the men on this site — and I’m assuming all of the women—already know the basic Chinese dating rules (which apply to internet dating as well) that I am about to lay out. But some of the guys may not. I had no idea about what follows when I first arrived in China from America. Instead, if I thought about it at all — which I probably did not — I probably assumed that the dating scenarios of our two countries were roughly the same. Boy was I wrong! Given how fundamental these rules are for the endeavor you are embarked upon, it is worth at least one blog post to make explicit some basic information you need to know going in, since ignorance in this area not only wastes your time but puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

So here it is. When it comes to dating Chinese women, the first (and some would argue the only) rule you need to be aware of is this: Chinese women are expected to marry before exiting their late twenties. Just as there is no parallel in American culture to the obligation the Chinese child feels for taking care of the elderly parent, so there exists nothing remotely close in American dating and marriage culture to the pressure these Chinese women feel with regard to not entering their thirties as unmarried. If you want to get some idea of the sort of stresses we are talking about, think about the forces that brought about the earthquake in Haiti, and multiply it by ten. Few Chinese women make it into their thirties unmarried, and those that do soon risk attaining Elephant-man type status.

This married-by-thirty rule serves as a sort of Continental Divide, shaping the dating landscape on either side of it. The practical implications for CLM are that the women in their early twenties who are on the site are far less likely to be seriously engaged in the process. If you want to understand why this is the case, think—as I often tell you to—of Confucius, a figure without whom it is hard to understand contemporary China. One of the principles of Confucianism involves the importance of the middle way. For every activity one seeks the mean and avoids the extremes on either side. When it comes to marriage, the culture has decided that the early twenties are for the most part too soon to get married.

It is with the mid-to-late twenties that marriage fever breaks out among Chinese women, and the website is replete with beautiful Chinese women in this age group seeking a life partner. The good news is that by virtue of being on an international dating site, these women are at least open to the possibility of hooking up with foreign men. The bad news (at least for the commitment-phobe) is that by virtue of being Chinese women of a certain age, these women are dead serious about marriage (and the closer to 30, the more serious). Warning: Do not wade into this territory if you are looking for a short-term, good-time relationship. These women are going for the whole enchilada (or whatever the Chinese equivalent would be).

This was nicely illustrated by an incident discussed by Sarah Wang in one of her blogs. On the Chinese dating show “If You are the One,” one of the male contestants, a charming young British man who was an audience favorite, was rejected by the marriage-age ladies on the show because his job as a DJ at a club made him a less than sure bet to support a family. Although there was some discussion in the media about whether the women were being too materialistic, in fact all they were merely being was serious about dating. They were not going to date someone unless he was a real marriage prospect.

The mixed news here (good for the younger guys on the site/bad for the older ones) is that for the most part these women have fairly strict age requirements. One of the female bloggers on the site spoke for many in this age group when she declared flat out that she categorically refuses to have anything to do with anyone over forty. This sentiment was confirmed by John Abbot, who commented that when he first moved to China nearly a decade ago, women in this prime age group were much less picky about the age of their mate but have become much more so with China’s increasing economic status.

After reaching the magic (or, some would say, cursed) age of thirty, things change radically for Chinese woman. As someone in this age group who posted a comment in a forum put it: “it's really hard for women who are above 30 years old to find their Mr. Right, especially for Chinese women, just like me. Sometimes I feel dismal about this.” Some of these women will have the sense of one of my correspondent’s that “all the good Chinese men are gone,” while others will be saying “good riddance.” I would look for the latter if I were you. This is also the age group in which the first divorcees will begin to make their appearance. Compared to the U.S. divorce is rare in China, but it is certainly on the rise, fueled by the proclivity of Chinese men to acquire a mistress along with their first pay raise. But one needs to realize as well that divorcees in this age group will likely have young children at home.

The mid-thirties is a continuation of the previous period. To reach this age and never have been married is a rare thing in Chinese culture—and not rare in the good sense like a buffalo nickel or a sunny day in Seattle is rare. Think more of Aristotle’s line that to live outside of society one must either be a god or a beast. One can say the same thing about remaining single in China into this age period. Alternatively, there are more divorcees who turn up. And—how to put this—a lot of these women are hot! As the website stuffwhitepeoplelike.com put it: “Another factor that draws white guys to Asian women is that white women are jealous of them. Take for instance the fact that Asian women well into their 30s and 40s retain teen / college girl looks without the help of botox, yoga or a trendy diet.”

As well women in this group are often not exactly crazy about Chinese guys, since it is the latter’s proclivity for acquiring young mistresses (rapidly becoming the national sport of China) that has likely brought about the divorce. Thankfully for foreign men, divorced women in China do not have the cachet they do in America. Think not so much Courtney Cox in Cougar Town as Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter and you can begin to understand how divorced women are viewed in their own country. About the only thing that changes post forty is that instead of having children at home many of the divorced women have children who have moved out of the house by now.

So that’s an overview of how things stand. As they said in one of the Indiana Jones movies, “Choose wisely.”

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 10 of 11) 1 2 More...
#2010-06-28 21:32:02 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

This is loaded with extremely valuable and generally accurate (in my view) information and I heartily recommend that every male member study it carefully. I would add only that the pressure on Chinese women does not end after they marry, it then becomes intense pressure to stay married (unless she married a foreigner of course), regardless of the emotional cost. And if she should divorce she is instantly under intense pressure to marry again. The pressure remains at least until she enters her sixties. I do see this situation bettering itself in the more advanced cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou so it may well pass for the next generation.

#2010-06-29 07:39:36 by anniewang2010 @anniewang2010

what can I say? I can only say that you don't know Chinese women. Maybe you are describing the women who live in the rural area?

#2010-06-29 11:03:43 by mina @mina

Peter,
Thanks a lot for offering a series of information-loaded blogs based on perspectives from cross-cultural differences...
Those blogs are useful not only for foreign men, but also for Chinese women like me...The analysis of an outsider, as objective and complete as it can be, helps me to understand myself and my situation better. Thanks!
Here, i got some questions for you, professor:
1) I am in the age group of mid-thirties, widowed, I am very serious for finding my life-time partner...It is hard for me to tell my being "desperate" for re-marriage is out of personal preference or social pressure. Subconsciously, marriage means an indispensable part of a fulfilled life to me. Here i just want to know, put in the same situation, how my counterparts in U.S act?

#2010-06-29 11:17:28 by mina @mina

2) In your blog, you pointed out Chinese men’s proclivity for acquiring young mistresses and John Abbot sort of affirmed it in his comments by saying, "the pressure on Chinese women does not end after they marry, it then becomes intense pressure to stay married (unless she married a foreigner of course)"...what i feel interested is that in the parenthesis...why Chinese women don't need to struggle for staying married any more if she married a foreigner? Is it because foreigner men do have higher moral standards? Or they enjoy themselves more with their wives? Or it will be too costly to divorce their wives? Or some other reasons?

#2010-07-01 00:14:35 by svanslyke @svanslyke

Peter - Thank you for the clarification on this! On CLM, I have spoken with several women who are in their twenties. During our initial conversation, one has come right out and said "I need a husband. I like you and want you to come visit me." These are accurate quotes. I was taken aback and thought "What is up with that?" Now after reading the information you provided, I have a much clearer insight and better understanding on what was driving this behaviour. I am very impressed wiith the quality of women I have met here who are in their thirties and forties. Not only for their beauty, but also for their sophistication. Thanks again!

#2010-07-01 03:15:21 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

Thanks for the comments. (1) anniewang, I never claimed to know Chinese women (nor would I). I am merely providing my observations. But what exactly do you disagree with in what I wrote? (2) Mina, my sense is that American women do not perceive marriage as essential to happiness as do Chinese women and that many believe one can be perfectly happy without a man in their lives. I am not sure it is less of a struggle to stay married in America. The divorce rate is 50%. But part of the reason for that high divorce rate is women in general don't stand for their husbands' fooling around. They are as likely to dump the chump as stay married for the sake of the children, especially since (a)they don't feel they need the man to be happy and (b) the society does not look down upon a divorced woman.

#2010-07-01 15:37:37 by tony21 @tony21

This is a really interesting area for discussion. Much of the material presented rings true with my own experiences to date, and I really feel it is quite accurate. The thing that intrigues me is where does the "pressure" end and where does true "emotion" begin? When I meet a chinese woman for the first time, she will ask 3 questions. Where are you from. The innocent say nice question, but experience tells me they are asking "are you from a country that I would like to live in?". The second is "how long have you been here?" Again, an obvious question. In my experience it means do you know what Chinese dating culture is about and how much experience do you have? The third is how long will you stay? (or will you be here long enough for me to warrant putting effort in).

#2010-07-01 15:40:40 by tony21 @tony21

This then leads me to one question...how do I know if someone is attracted to me from a physical and emotional standpoint or are they attracted to me simply because I fit the mould and answered correctly to all 3 questions as a start. Can I ever really be truly certain when a realtionship develops that "I love you" has the same meaning as it does in the west?

#2010-07-03 17:14:36 by panda2009 @panda2009

I think that a happiness life depends on personal capacity. A real capable single who would not be afraid of whatever marriage or divorce.

#2010-07-08 16:34:33 by msnothing @msnothing

There's a lot of truth in your conclusion about chinese women's wish of getting married before thirty, especially from parental wishes. And even persoanlly I think if I didn't meet a right guy during my twenties, it's better I stay alone. Life can be still fullfied without a certain man to marry. sometimes I think it so difficult to distinguish the thing and the people, like, if one falls in love with love itself(like to love or to be loved) or a certain person.

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