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Matchmaking cannot make up for gender imbalance

Catholic men in China search in vain for brides

Matchmaking cannot make up for gender imbalance
Young Catholics join a matchmaking activity organized by a parish in Wenzhou diocese. reporter, Wenzhou

February 26, 2013

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Chinese New Year is not only a time for family reunions; it is also a time for parents to set up their marrying-age children when they make their annual trips home.

In a parish in Wenzhou diocese, eastern Zhejiang province, a recent event for single Catholics illustrated all too well the serious gender imbalance among Chinese under 30.

The 50 men who attended found they outnumbered their counterparts by a margin of 2:1. 

“There are too many wolves but too little meat," one of the men said. "The competition is acute."

The official media estimate there will be 30 to 40 million more marrying-age men than women by 2020. If every woman chose a husband, one out of five men would still fail to find a spouse.

China’s one child policy and traditional preference for male heirs has led to gender-selective abortions and adoption, considered to be the direct cause of the gender imbalance.

According to official statistics, there are 13 million cases of abortion each year in China, ranking it the first in the world.

The gender imbalance lets young women be less concerned about getting married, but young men with poor family backgrounds or financial conditions have a hard time finding a wife, said Father Peter Xue Ronglei, the organizer of the singles event.

Lucia Zhu, a matchmaker for over 10 years, confirmed the priest’s observation. “There are now more boys than girls. The boys meet their potential partners one after another cursorily, and they still think there are many girls. Indeed, girls now become more treasured,” she said.

“The choices for Catholics are even smaller,” Zhu said, noting that both men and women have high expectations of their future spouse in terms of family background, physique and appearance. 

One participant, Joseph, told that he found a woman participant appealing but he believed he has little chance because she is more academically capable than he is.

John, another participant at the event, said, “It will be okay for me if there is someone who likes me," when asked what his criteria is for his future spouse. 

Private matchmaking arranged by parents and matchmakers is quite common in China, especially in rural areas, but gatherings like the one on February 17 are not yet popular across the country, even among non-Catholics.

Yet that might change, as parents, especially those of young men, are trying their best to find daughters-in-law who share their religion. Some participants said they were “coaxed and cheated” by their parents to attend the activity.

Maria Chen, one of the mothers at the gathering, said she insisted on finding a Catholic wife for her son because she knows other couples who suffered from conflicts because of their different faiths.

These mothers maintained that sons tend to obey what their future wives say and will abandon their faith if their wives belong to another religion. 

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