Chinese Women, Asian Women, Online Dating & Things Chinese and Asian
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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What's Love Got To Do with It? (Part 2)    

By Peter V
3257 Views | 4 Comments | 7/25/2012 2:27:17 PM

In the last section, I argued that romantic love as it is understood in the West is alien to traditional Chinese thinking. Here, I will show what effect this has upon male-female relationships in contemporary China and what the implications are for those who want to date Chinese women. I will look broadly at two groups of women: older, more traditional women and the younger generation (ba ling hous and jiu ling hous). In both cases, it will turn out romantic love as it is understood in the West plays little role in the actual practice of relationships.

This is perhaps easier to see in the case of traditional Chinese women. Since I have demonstrated in the first part romantic love is alien to traditional Chinese thinking, it is not surprising that those who describe themselves as traditional Chinese women on and off the CLM website do not view romantic love as a priority in a relationship. Where do we get our values except from our culture? Instead, the most important thing for these women is not eros (desire) but jia (family). Hence, if you read their profiles you will see that the qualities they seek are those qualities that are most important to the maintenance of a family: maturity, seriousness and responsibility. They want a stable, steady relationship, not something with the mercurial ups and downs of passion. And this, to return to a point I raised in the previous part, does not strike me as a bad thing. A woman who values stability and family will not easily leave a relationship and will be more committed than one who is influenced by the notion of romantic love. Indeed, I would argue that one of the reasons for the high American divorce rate is an unrealistic desire to constantly keep the flame of passionate longing alive, which makes it more likely for one of the partners to stray when that flame recedes, as it inevitably must. So for those who want a stable, lasting relationship, this traditional approach has much to recommend not despite but because of its lack of emphasis on romantic love.

But what about the younger generation, the ba ling hous and jiu ling hous? By consensus, this generation has a different set of values than their predecessors. Statistics show increased sexual activity among this age group, and there is certainly sufficient exposure to Western culture, including American movies and television. Has this generation become Westernized? And if so, has romantic love found its place in Chinese culture?

In fact, when we turn to the younger generation—the post-eighties and post-nineties generation—things are different in some ways and the same in others. What is the same I would argue is the fact that romantic love is not a driving force in relationships or marriage. To be sure, you sometimes hear women of this generation using the language of romantic love and even claiming to follow its dictates. But seeing a few seasons of Friends or watching Titanic a dozen times is simply not equivalent to growing up in a culture that saturates you in an ideology of romantic love. Indeed, the young Chinese women who use the vocabulary of romance invariably remind me of members of the Catholic Church who attend services where they recite the mass in ancient Latin but they have no idea what the words mean.

What does drive their thought process in relationships was demonstrated by an incident I have written about here several times and I will keep repeating because the reaction this incident evoked in China says a lot about its significance. It is the young woman who on the most popular dating show told a potential date that she would rather "cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle." The woman was condemned, as many truth-tellers are. But the strong reaction to her claim demonstrates that she had touched a nerve. Our own Garreth so perfectly summed up the mindset of this generation that I can do no better than to quote him verbatim:

“But my experience has been that many of these are pretty cool and calculating - not in conniving ways (at least not initially, but there is an expectation that you will be the “ultimate provider” of every whim and desire), but most of the ones I have come across are fairly self-centered and have a different view on what is important - status, style, fashion over responsibility, loyalty and togetherness - and generally don't stick around much if you are not offering this. People would say, you must be careful - look out for gold diggers (or as Cheng so nicely described “money-worship ladies”) or people that want to take advantage of us...and that is true! In my ’in China experience’ dating a younger lady, you are probably more likely to encounter this attitude!”

Given what I said earlier—that we get our value from our culture—it is not surprising that these younger women are focused almost exclusively on the material aspects of a relationship. Deng Xiao Ping’s famous “it is a glorious thing to be rich” has had many profoundly positive effects, including being responsible for lifting more people out of poverty than any time in human history. But as the Chinese would be the first to tell you, there are two sides to every coin, and the dark side of this emphasis on material wealth has been to instill this as the overriding value to the exclusion of all others even in matters of the heart.

But to echo the sentiment expressed earlier, this is not necessarily a bad thing. As the payoff in the case of traditional woman for giving up romance is a more intense commitment to the relationship than you would find in a Western woman, what you gain from the loss of romantic love in the younger generation in favor of pragmatism is a definite hotter woman than you would get in the West with a similar income. This is because Western men have a higher potential for income than Chinese men, and the modern younger Chinese woman both knows and cares about that. In a series of articles I have written for the paper Chengdu Daily, I discussed interviews I did with younger Chinese women on the question of why they date Western men. Just as the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, the three most important traits of a Western man are: money, money, and money. The result is that an average looking young Western guy with a reasonably nice income can definitely get a much more beautiful woman than he would in his homeland, and an older guy can go a lot younger and prettier than he would be able to do on a similar income in Western lands. (For those men who say physical beauty is not important to them, well, let us praise them but not believe them).

Whether motivated by a desire for family or for material comfort, there is an inherently pragmatic (i.e., non-romantic) conception at the heart of love in China. It is what I have tried to argue, what Gareth has put forth in the claims I have quoted and, finally, it is a sentiment echoed by a recently published, highly touted book on China: “What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the China’s Modern Consumer” by Tom Doctoroff. In it you will find the following claim, which echoes exactly the world view I have been describing:

“For the Chinese, emotional payoffs must be practical, even in matters of the heart. In the U.S. DeBeers slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’ glorifies eternal romance. In China, the same tag line connotes obligation, a familial covenant—rock solid, like the stone itself.”

This perfectly captures the pragmatic model of the Chinese relationship, whether of the traditional or modern variety. Since, given our romantic heritage, this is an emotional perspective that is alien to the West, unless you recognize this going in, as I said at the beginning, you will be in for a lot of trouble. On the other hand, if you know what you are getting into, there can be a real payoff.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2012-07-28 10:29:54 by aussieghump @aussieghump

I think that for many younger urbanised/educated women you have what I call 'the funnel effect' - the desire to be financially independent and career-minded, to find a 'romantic love' etc - but also that overwhelming prospect of hitting 30-years of age and becoming 'unsaleable' on the marriage market in China.

I have watched many friends and associates go along this path - a focus on career and independence and then a sudden realisation/family influence that they must 'get married, have a child' with "whoever will marry them" at between 28-30 years of age - and they appear to think that they 'were lucky to find a man who would marry one so old!'. It is like they hit an 'It's the time' fence - either by themselves, through their friends or via family.

To a lesser extent, Chinese males feel this too!

The fact that many the Chinese 'Sex and the City' watchers fail to notice is that all those women are in their 30's to 40's (in the show), and are searching for a romantic ideal and not finding it! Fleeting exposes of 'semi-satisfying' sex, but not stability in love or life.
Friends is similar - the characters may have an independent streak, but none have really found 'fulfilling love' (well, not that I watched it avidly).

It is really a fallacy to believe most that foreigners experience "lightning-strike romantic love"! In truth, most foreigners will meet their partners through the same connections as Chinese - work, friends, study or family - the 'myth' is that we foreigners somehow veil it in 'free choice' while the Chinese tend to be more pragmatic!
Like Chinese, foreigners also check with family and friends about 'suitability' and family connections, opportunities and pitfalls. They might 'test run' on living together - just to be sure! We might take a little longer and 'pretend' we are finding out about our partner and maybe don't have the 'Chinese Yes/No Checklist of Suitability', but the effect is the same.

The clash comes when the desire of the Chinese partner is to 'dot the i's and cross the t's' within the first week and the foreigner has some longer 'romantic' timeframe in which to get the job done!
As a foreigner, I don't want to be rushed into something before I balance the opportunities with the risks - and my Chinese partner doesn't have the time to explore that dynamic (because I may gat away, or she may find out incompatibilities without the obligation of marriage). Faced with the possibility of 'real issues' such as children, family, relocation, dependance and language/cultural issues - I am wanting to be much clearer that I can 'willingly and happily accommodate this person to the level that she deserves' before I give false hopes or be a 'playboy' to her (Chinese definition).

#2012-08-06 08:28:30 by gaspasser @gaspasser

I met a 53 y/o divorced Chinese woman on this website. We wrote back and forth and before long decided we were in love with each other and we wanted to meet and work on a K1 Fiancee Visa so she could come to the U.S.A. where we would be married within 90 days. Then she told me she had ovarian cancer. She had the required surgery for the cancer at a big university hospital here in Harbin, with follow up IV and oral chemo. They got the cancer early, it was localized and still soft, and herdoctors told her she was very lucky, since ovarian cancer is the biggest killer of women. I came her to Harbin to meet her for the first time on July 17th. of this year. We got to know each other even more, and developed more of a committed relationship in spite of her cancer history. She is an older traditional Chinese woman who has taken care of her family, and now they are helping her with the expense of her cancer treatment. She has been very independent in the past,she wants to be again, once her chemo is finished and she is cancer free, even though she will need monthly blood work check ups. We are compatible in all areas even though I am 71 years of age, that does not bother her. Her first marriage was more or less pre-arranged and she told me she has never known real true deep love and passion like she has felt with me. She is Buddhist and a vegetarian and I am Christian and am not, but that doesn't matter to us. We want to be together no matter what, and we will be. There had to be a reason why the two of us from opposite sides of the world met and have come it fate, karma, or doesn't matter, nor does it matter how long we have together because we make each other very happy, and that is all that matters. She is a good woman and I am a good man, and we both feel very fortunate to have found each other in this big wide world. I looked at a lot of women and read a lot of profiles on this website, and there were many that were younger and more physically attractive than her, but there was just something about her and her simple honesty, directness, smile and how we communicated that let me know that she was the one for me. I will be here a month and a half, and we have purchased a ring for her so she knows I am serious about my desire for her to become my wife, in spite of her problems and what her family thinks, as they worry about her going to America with me and not having the family support she has now, and that concerns her as well, but she has spent most of her life taking care of her family, and in an unhappy and unsatisfying marriage, and now it is her time to be happy.

So I agree...there are many women in China, but not all of them are good or suitable for Western men, but if you take your time and look, they are out there and looking for a good Western man who does not just want a young beautiful Chinese woman for superficial or the short term...and they are all much better than any of the Western women I've seen on the web sites in America. That is why so many western men are turning to the orient to find women...just check out some of the western dating websites and you will see. It is a shame that so many western women do not take care of themselves physically and most of them look their given age, not so with the Chinese women, and in China advanced age is an asset, not a liability like in the west. Everything you said in your blog is true, and I have to thank this website for bringing the two of us together, for however long of a future we may have.


#2012-08-06 13:09:25 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Hi Ray (I can't quite bring myself to address someone as "gas passer"), that is truly a remarkable beginning to a great success story. We wish you the very best going forward together.

And Peter, I'm with you on what you've said 100%, but I would add that I think the best result from the East/West union is when he develops a more practical and responsible approach to honoring his partner's and family's needs, learned from her, and she develops the ability to let her hair down once in a while and just revel in life, learned from him. Suddenly you have a partnership that will weather all the hardships that life brings to bear.

#2013-03-07 17:40:36 by gabbygj @gabbygj

Obviously, I think John has a very mature attitude towards this east-west union thing.

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