With changing views and fast-paced lifestyles, youth in China no longer think that marriage is a necessity

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/30 20:03:39

A higher sense of self-awareness and independent lifestyles led by young Chinese, are causing some of them to avoid marriage. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Nic Lee, a 31-year-old  Chinese, is still single. Almost all of his friends and colleagues have "tied the knot" and his family is urging him to find a girlfriend and to get married almost every day. However, Lee does not have a set time schedule for marriage. He doesn't  think marriage is a necessity in his life.

"Our generation has a different definition and need for marriage. For our parents' generation, marriage was something they had to do because they felt that they had a social responsibility to form a family and carry on the family line. So when they reached a certain age, they would get married, even if they were not in love with their spouse," Lee said.

"However, my generation gained a different set of ideals growing up. We do not see marriage as a responsibility related to age; we see it as a matter of personal feelings toward someone. We want to seek true love as a reason for marriage. If there is not true love, I would prefer not getting married," Lee said.

Last week, Life Times, a publication dedicated to understanding lifestyle changes and health, reported that marriage and fertility rates among people in their 20s and early 30s, have hit a record-breaking low around the world. The same trend hit China. According to the report, the marriage rate and fertility rate have also dropped dramatically in China.

According to the report, statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed that there are 200 million single men and women in China and more than 58 million people currently live alone. China also has a low fertility rate. According to the latest population census in 2010, on average every woman gives birth to 1.18 children. This is even lower than Singapore and Portugal, which are well-known for their low fertility rates.

Chen Yaya, a sociologist from Shanghai Academy of Social Science, said that it is because more young Chinese have changed their opinions toward marriage. They no longer think marriage is a necessity and they choose to base their marital decisions on feelings, rather than submitting to social pressure and the idea you must be married by a certain age.

According to Chen, young people focus more energy on their academic and professional careers and the pressure of living in a big city gives them less time and energy to think about marriage. She pointed out that there has been a conscious awakening among young Chinese that leads them to seek self-fulfillment in work and personal interest, rather than in marriage.

As more women achieve economic independence, they are more reluctant to get married and have kids because they believe it will influence their academic and professional endeavours. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Single life is good

Lee said that when he was in school, many students like him devoted a lot of time and energy in relationships. But when they stepped into society, work, hobbies and friends take up most of their time.

"So, we don't really have much time left for relationships and marriage," said Lee, who works at a financial company in Beijing.

It is common for Lee to work overtime, sometimes until 3 am. Aside from work, Lee has a cat and dog, likes to go to the gym, play golf, cook and read.

Lee lived in the US for two years when he was in elementary school, and went to Australia when he was 18 to start university.

"Living abroad was the most important time in my life because that is when I formed my values. I believe living abroad gave me a higher sense of self-awareness than other Chinese who have not left the country." 

Self-awareness means that Lee is more conscious of his own character, feelings, motives and desires. This allows him to be more independent and more aware of how he wants to live his life.

Paying more attention to personal feelings and the emotional bond two people share, he does not see marriage as a necessity or social responsibility.

Some people avoid marriage because of the restrictions that come along with it. Dave Qin, 27, who works at an accounting company in Beijing, also said that he does not have a set timeline for being married or in a long-term relationship.

Qin invested seven years in a relationship. He said that it gave him an understanding of what marriage would feel like.

 "Whether you are dating or married, eventually there is no love, only friendship and companionship," Qin said.

"Marriage and relationships have restrictions. Take my last relationship for example, she was always trying to control me; she gave me no time alone and would not let me have female friends. All the restrictions and responsibilities suffocated me," Qin said.

"I don't want these restrictions anymore. If two people love each other, they will stay together whether they are married or not. Restrictions kill love."

More than marriage

Not just men have less desire to get married; women now have more economic independence and can satisfy their own needs. According to Chen, more women are choosing to live with their partners or live alone, rather than get married because they no longer need marriage to grant a sense of stability and belonging in life.

When you can achieve economic independence, you can enjoy love without any restrictions, said Cassiel Xing, 24, a financial worker in Beijing.

According to Xing, men and women have become more equal, so women can seek their value and sense of recognition in many activities outside of marriage.

"Other people can't give you security and recognition, these values come from within. It depends on whether you can live independently, and whether you can satisfy your own needs both materially and mentally," Xing said.

"A career you like, hobbies that can enrich you and a social life made up of many different kinds of people, can all make life more interesting and worthwhile," she said.

Xing started her own clothing brand two years ago, and at the same time has a good job in the financial industry. She also bought an apartment for herself. All of this gave her a sense of security and recognition.

Yang Yang, 34, a lawyer in Beijing, said she is determined not to get married.

"I am already economically independent and can have a good life on my own. If I marry someone who makes less money than me, the quality of my life might be lowered," Yang said.

The rising divorce rate also made Yang lose hope for marriage.

She worries that if she gets married and it leads to a divorce, she will have to go through expensive legal matters. She said that in the situation of divorce, if the couple's community property is within 200,000 yuan ($29,966), the legal costs are around 50 yuan to 300 yuan, and if their community property surpasses 200,000 yuan, which is a middle class income in China, they would have to pay 0.5 percent of the extra community property as legal cost.

Yang also said that Chinese society still heavily discriminates divorced women, making it much harder for them to find another spouse.

Living life to the fullest

The fertility rate in China has dropped to a new low in recent years.

Chen said that it is because the child rearing and education costs in China have become very high. In addition, more women focus on their careers and personal interests, making them more reluctant to have kids.

Shi Yuan (pseudonym), a 25-year-old girl who works in a financial company in Beijing, who has been married for four years, said that she would not have kids although her husband and their parents are pressuring her to have one. 

"Raising a kid will take so much of our time and energy. Some of my friends who have kids do not have any time to go out or enjoy themselves. Their career even suffered because they would put their children first. I don't want to be that person," Shi said.

Besides, Shi said she has seen so many kids who always get themselves into trouble or disturb other people in public places and their parents do not take a stand but continue to spoil them. This turns her off from wanting children; she does not want to raise a kid who acts like that.

Shi is also worried that there is a possibility that she and her husband might get a divorce someday, so she does not want her child to grow up in a single-parent household as she did.

Cai Zonghui, 31, a director of a television station in Beijing, also said that he and his wife decided they were not going to have children. 

He said that attitudes toward family are changing and so are values for what people want in their lives.

"Today children are not the center of building a family. People want to better improve themselves and feel more personally fulfilled," Cai said.

"Without children, it is much easier to go back to school for further study, travel abroad or host parties for friends. I am just glad we have the freedom to choose how to live our lives."

Newspaper headline: Not tying the knot

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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