The new generation of Chinese women would prefer to be single rather than stay in an unhappy relationship

By Katrin Büchenbacher Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/13 16:58:39

Chinese women born in the 1990s are ending relationships that do not satisfy their needs. Photo: IC

The romantic comedy Ex File 3 (2018) has drawn millions of Chinese to the movie theaters. It tells the story of two male friends whose blissful single lifestyle is shattered when their ex-girlfriends re-enter the picture and put a wrench in their casual dating escapades.

It appears that the film has struck a chord with China's young. The movie made 1.36 billion yuan ($214 million) at the box office as of January 8, according to a recent South China Morning Post report. Also, statistics from Tao Piao Piao, a Chinese online ticketing platform, show that Chinese under 24 made up 70 percent of the movie's viewers, the majority of whom were women.

What made so many women come out in their numbers to see the film? Do they relate to the storyline because they have had a similar experience in the past?

Casual dating is increasingly common among Chinese youth, especially with the prevalence of dating apps. Chinese dating app Momo alone has over 90 million active monthly users as of June 2017, according to a report published by Singapore-based consulting company China Internet Watch. Although technology has made meeting new people and falling in love easier, ending a relationship remains difficult nonetheless.

Unmarried women of a certain age are often stigmatized as "leftover" by Chinese society. However, the new generation of Chinese women, those born in the 1990s, appears to have taken a pragmatic stance toward relationships by choosing to end relations that do not feel right to them anymore. In this scenario, it seems it's the men who are "leftover" although they statistically outnumber the women in China.

Metropolitan talked to some young Chinese men and women in Beijing to trace their sentiment toward their most recent relationship.


While some young women in China no longer hesitate to move on from a past relationship, the men seem to cling to the memory of their lost love. Photo: IC


No heartache

Do China's urban millennial women worry less about the stigma of being "leftover," or are they still too young to think about marriage?

Phoebe (pseudonym) Photo: Katrin Büchenbacher/GT

Phoebe (pseudonym) will turn 26 this year. She has three ex-boyfriends. She dated her most recent one for three years.

"I had a part-time job in the bank where he did his internship. We fell in love," she told Metropolitan. They moved in together, met each other's parents and "nearly" talked about marriage.

"The experience we shared was nothing special. What I liked most about my ex-boyfriend is that he was very gentle, elegant and tolerable," she said. "What I dislike most is also that he was too gentle. Sometimes his strengths attracted me, but sometimes they also made me jealous."

Longing for a new and more exciting life in Beijing, Phoebe dumped him and left him behind in Yunnan Province.

"I needed a change. It does not mean I didn't love him. I left him only because he couldn't give me what I need," she explained.

Seventeen-year-old high school student Wei Ran (pseudonym) is too young to worry about being "leftover," but should that become a problem in the future, she is unlikely to settle. She has three ex-boyfriends already.

"When a boy gives me the cold shoulder, I will break up with him," Wei said.

Are China's millennials too quick to pull the emergency brakes in a romantic relationship? Wei met her most recent boyfriend on Chinese dating app Tantan. Their first date was at his home where she met his mom.

"He was quite amusing but had an inferiority complex," she said.

He dumped her on WeChat after two months because their personalities did not match, according to him. Wei didn't shed a tear over him. Instead, she took the experience as a lesson.

"I learned not to talk about breaking up too often," Wei said."We still talk, but I don't miss him, nor love him."

Li Zhuo and her friend Photo: Katrin Büchenbacher/GT

Li Zhuo, 23, had a high school boyfriend. They dated for four years, then he went to college in another city, and she found a job in Beijing. They grew apart because there was just no time to see each other anymore.

"What impressed me the most about our time together was once when I was a college student in Beijing and couldn't go home during the National Day holidays, he got a standing ticket from Gansu Province to Beijing to see me. It really moved me," she said.

However, now, her biggest regret is that she got together with her ex in the first place.

"I wasted so much time on this relationship. I was still young, and instead of focusing on myself, I was always concerned about my boyfriend. Now, I want to think more about myself," Li said.


Wang Xintong and her friend Photo: Katrin Büchenbacher/GT


Wang Xintong, 22, has already forgotten why she liked her ex-boyfriend of two years. She recalled that he gave her a surprise visit when she was studying in South Korea but said they argued a lot. She eventually dumped him on WeChat and has no regrets.

"Now, I don't like anything about him," Wang said. "If I want a boyfriend, he'd better be mature and experienced."


Shi Wei Photo: Katrin Büchenbacher/GT


The "leftover" men

It has been only a month since Shi Wei's girlfriend dumped him. The 23-year-old and his ex dated for 10 months, and he still gets a lump in his throat when he talks about how much she loved to eat French fries when they strolled down the hutong alleys in Nanluoguxiang together.

"She was so cute. There's nothing I didn't fancy about her," he said.

She told him that she didn't like him anymore over a meal. Shi said the breakup was amicable. But he still misses her.

"If it is possible, I'll wait for you to come back," he wants to tell his ex. "I still love you."

Xu Mo (pseudonym) Photo: Katrin Büchenbacher/GT

Xu Mo (pseudonym), 24, likewise, has wistful memories of his ex whom he met on a business trip four years ago. They were a couple for a year and shared an apartment for a time. They never had any big fights, but a big mistake caused them to have two arguments that would drive them apart. She left him after the last fight and hasn't reached out to him.

"I have many regrets," he said. "I still miss her a lot."

It has been three years since they broke up, but he can't let go, even though she is now married and has a baby. He once tried to call her when she was on the way to work.

"I just hope that we could still be friends, and I wish she has a happy, peaceful life," he said, explaining why he called.

Franz's (pseudonym) ex-girlfriend recently blocked him on WeChat, the same app she used to dump him six months before.

"She found a new boyfriend before we split up," Franz, 27, explained.

They dated for three years during which she "tried" to leave him several times.

"She is still a student and lives in a dormitory with her classmates. She would often get into a bad mood when they compared whose boyfriend was better," Franz said. "She wished that I was more active and goal-oriented, and more importantly rich enough to provide for her and her family. Since I couldn't provide her with the financial stability she required, I was unable to make her feel safe and secure. Her requirements motivated me to put more effort into my career, but they also put a lot of stress on me."

What is love?

The pressure to find and keep a girlfriend has increased significantly for young Chinese men as more and more women are raising their standards for a suitable mate and opting to remain single to focus on their career and life instead of investing in a romantic relationship that does not satisfy them completely. But that doesn't mean that there are no regrets.

"I don't know what love is," Phoebe said, adding that she felt remorse over hurting her ex. "I do miss him, but my work is the priority now."

Her secret wish though is that he would wait for her. She estimates that it would take about three to five years for her to be ready for the kind of relationship he is offering.

"Maybe at that time I would want a steady life. If I went back to him, I hope he would still love me. But I know it's very unfair toward him. So, I wish him all the best and that he doesn't wait for me," she said. "[He is] an unlucky boy for having met me."


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