15:11 GMT04 August 2021
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    More Chinese Women are Now Marrying Younger Men

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    Women marrying younger men is something that does not raise any eyebrows in the West now. But in China, the release of a recent official report which shows that this is happening is highly significant. Chinese women have always seen it as essentially correct that they should marry older, preferably successful men.

    Matthew Holmes, a British writer, director, teacher and China expert explains the situation.

    Matthew says that the report, prepared by the Chinese Academy of Science is accurate in general terms. "Because there has been tremendous economic development, women have opportunities in the work place to a much greater extent than before, and are earning more. There are other related demographic issues, like women being outnumbered by men in China….One of the reasons for this is the One Child Policy which has disrupted the whole traditional family model. Under Confucianism, women were akin to chattel really, and were seen as commodities within the family which the husband pays the right price for when they marry….All these Confucian values come from when China was really an agrarian culture and in many ways feudal."

    Host John Harrison asks if these new changes could lead to instability within Chinese society. "A few years ago, they were talking about ‘left over women,' that is, women who are unmarried past thirty. I think the Chinese government is rather worried about the gender imbalances, and wants people to be getting married and having children, more than they probably are the moment. And they are also worried about the section of men who women will not look at because they don't earn enough. They want to change the perception of those men; to tell them that is acceptable to marry an older woman."

    The concept of the man being a loser if he marries an older woman, Matthews says, is still very strong in China. "The perception that he must be the male equivalent of a gold digger is prevalent. Some of these ideas die very slowly, and men like their women to be weak, like them to earn less money than them….The idea of an independent woman who has a job and is not financially dependent would be seen by many Chinese men as something not good as he would not then have control….There is another tradition that is for rich men to have mistresses. That is also very common and seen as a sign of the man's potency, wealth and power. These shifts in China's policy are seismic….I think this is a good thing."

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    China, women, marriage, demography
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