China’s growing divorce rate dilemma

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-8 0:38:01

Illustration: Liu Rui

Editor's Note:

A report released by China's Ministry of Civil Affairs recently showed that around 3.6 million Chinese couples got divorced in 2014. According to statistics, the divorce rate in China has steadily risen in the 12 years since 2003, with Beijing having the highest number of divorces of any of China's major cities as over 55,000 of its couples have split up. What are the factors behind the soaring divorce rate? How should we treat marriage properly?

The ties that bind are falling away

The divorce rate rising for 12 years running is anything but good. Families are a key component of society. Firm family relationships will ensure the stability of society. The public usually sees the rising divorce rate negatively and has been trying to find the reason behind it.

We are living in a modern society. Modern society consists of the following notions. One is the full development of the market economy. In such a society, every member of society enjoys a relatively independent economic status and freedom, regardless of their gender.

The other is that a society ruled by law ensures that all the rights of citizens, no matter if they are men or women, are protected by law.

With the above two conditions, the personal affiliation and economic dependence involved in marital relationships have been greatly reduced, and such relations have become relatively pure and simple. Therefore, the "ties" that bind two people together have become loose, resulting in the rising divorce rate, which is not that surprising.

The easy procedure of dividing the property of spouses and simple divorce proceedings has shortened the divorce process. This also contributes to the rising divorce rate.

Some experts attribute divorce to extramarital affairs, which they believe are mostly generated by social networking software. Indeed, some divorces are triggered by extramarital affairs. But only when the foundation of a marriage is shaken, will extramarital relations seem appealing.

As for the emergence of social networking software, it is purely market-driven, and has no obligations to shoulder the burden of people's anger and anxieties.

No matter how a society changes, marriage is unlikely to become a matter purely concerning the spouses. It will unavoidably make an impact on others, families and society. In China today, due to the imbalanced development of society, not all people, especially not all women, have an independent economic status in a family. For an economically dependent woman who has to secure her life in a marital relationship, divorce is the last choice she would make.

Using the principle of the freedom of marriage, society must promote stable marital relations and restrain the rising divorce rate through cultural, economic and legal means. This is something worth working on, despite it being a lengthy and difficult process.

Beijing Youth Daily

Economic rationale for marriage fading

The essence of marriage is to satisfy people's physical and economic needs. Traditionally, economic needs were the most important factor in Chinese marriage. Parents had absolute control over their children's choice of spouse while young people had no choice but to obey others' wishes about their own marriages. Therefore, they were marriages of property where love and personality carried little weight.

Traditional marriage was not just an affair of young people; instead, it was the combination of two clans, who could build up a powerful network of relationships via marriage. Therefore, divorce would mean the breakdown of the network and was strongly opposed at that time.

Plus, women did not have economic independence and it would be tough for them to bring up children on their own. Even if they had a very unhappy marriage, women would choose to tolerate all the misfortune.

With the development of modern society, the underlying economic rationale for marriage is dissolving. When people have more options to make a living, the importance of traditional networks is degrading.

Meanwhile, women have gained financial independence. Their rising social status and greater legal protection have made it easier for women to get divorced.

Thanks to the changes, marriage is becoming more about love. People's willingness to tolerate a poor marriage is decreasing as well, which is followed by climbing divorce rate.

However, it is too early to be pessimistic about marriage. A new viewpoint has been put forward by experts: The failure of marriage should not be judged by the divorce rate.

Raising children together should be the basis of marriage. The divorce rate in China is high in two age groups: those below 35 years old and those above 50 years old, people who do not yet have a kid or whose children have grown up. This means marriage in China has not collapsed, as the main function of marriage - raising children - is still playing a role.

The climbing divorce rate reflects the changes to marriage. Chinese traditional marriage has placed too much attention on economic needs rather than love. Chinese people's views on marriage may undergo swift and fundamental changes as China lacks a cultural foundation to shape people's thinking about marriage on a compulsory basis, such as religion in the Western world.

New Culture View

High house prices drive partners apart

In the old days, people would turn pale even at the mention of divorce. However, nowadays, young couples, especially the generation born in the 1980s, feel that it is no big deal.

Young people from 22 to 35 years old have become the main force of this "divorce trend."

It is undeniable that people are becoming more open-minded due to social and economic development, as well as the increasing absorption of foreign cultures, which indeed has a huge impact on traditional perceptions.

Some people have therefore disregarded traditional family values and have become obsessed with the idea of "it does not make sense not to live for fun."

However, these are only some of the reasons behind the 12-year-straight rise of the divorce rate.

These days, unbelievably high house prices have also made a significant contribution to the divorce rate.

Quite a few deem a house as the basis of a marriage. Hence, when some eventually find out that they cannot afford a house, they would choose to break up to find a partner who comes from money. Without love as foundation for their marriage, they easily choose to divorce when facing difficulties in their married life.

There are also couples who go through a fake divorce in order to purchase a second house for the family without paying high tax rates.

However, neither of these phenomena belongs to the healthy mode of a marriage.

With the earth-shaking changes occurring in every category of our times and society, it is natural for marriage, or people's ideas about it, to experience certain variations.

Yet only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches, and couples will have to swallow the pill for their choices no matter if it is bitter or sweet.

Marriage requires both sides to share the responsibilities and grow together on the way toward their future.

But at the end of the day, it is their own business. Letting the two people play the leading role, letting them make the decisions about their own stories, whatever the reason, letting them grow up, without pouring judgments or cold waters on them, should become our mainstream attitude.

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