Finding love in China

A relatively new indicator for China’s economy was released last week. It showed that the number of couples who registered to marry during the traditional Qixi Festival, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, had gone up. Both the festival, held on Aug. 22 this year, and the statistic have become far more important to the ruling Communist Party. In January, China reported the lowest number of first-time marriages in nearly 40 years. And the country’s population declined for the first time in 60 years, a result of a dramatic drop in births.

The long-term challenges of these demographic shifts remain uncertain. Yet Chinese leaders are eager to discern what motivates today’s young people to fall in love, get married, have children, and stay married. Their worries were supported by a recent survey from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It found 42% of college students are OK with staying single.

“In the past, society emphasized family interests, and individual survival was directly connected to one’s family, so the point of marriage was mainly to continue the family line,” stated a recent article in the state-run Global Times. “Yet in modern society, marriage has a new name – marriage of love.” During the Qixi Festival, for example, the city of Xian texted residents with a message of “sweet love, marriage and childbirth.”