More men lonely and ‘leftover’

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-14 18:28:22

Skewed birth rate and high marriage expectations casting single guys on scrapheap

It is estimated China will have 24 million 'leftover' men by 2020, raising concerns of an impending social crisis. Photo: IC


Hype has surrounded "leftover women," or educated, urban, professional women nearing 30 who are still single, for years in China. But the rise of women in this group has created a surplus of unmarried men over 30 who are also dealing with the stigma associated with the "leftover" label.

Dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts, Wang Duo gazes around a UBS Coffee shop in Chaoyang district as he stands conspicuously on his own.

Wang has been single for nearly five years and fits into the shengnan ("leftover men") category. Introverted and a homebody by his own admission, the 34-year-old has struggled in his quest to find his "Miss Right" in Beijing.

"It's hard to find the right person. I want a deep girl who I can connect with spiritually, but I'm not so picky about appearance," said Wang, running his fingers through his receding hairline.

Gender imbalance woes

Wang, an environmental remediation director, earns a monthly salary of more than 10,000 yuan ($1,612), which he is neither "proud nor ashamed of."

Although he earns roughly twice the average monthly Beijing salary of 5,793 yuan based on 2013 figures from the municipal statistics bureau, Wang's marriage prospects are further limited because he doesn't own a car or apartment.

"Women are more realistic now, which is understandable. Life in Beijing is so stressful," said Wang, a native of Baoding, Hebei Province.

A 2010 report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted that by 2020 there will be 24 million single Chinese men due to the country's gender imbalance.

Media coverage of "leftover woman" has been widespread over the past five years, but now men in the same situation are also making headlines and fueling fears of an impending social crisis.

In 2013, a joint report by the Beijing Municipal Communist Youth Federation and Beijing Youth Federation ranked the Chinese capital as sixth in the first national poll of single men of marriageable age after 33 percent men identified themselves as "leftover."

The poll's top three places were taken by the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (34.9 percent), and Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces (both 33.4 percent).

"The national family planning policy and preference for boys over girls in China has fueled the gender balance. Too many 'leftover men' poses a social hazard," said Xia Xueluan, a sociologist at Peking University.

Signs of social problems are already beginning to surface due to desperation from men eager to tie the knot. On July 11, Anhui Daily reported seven single men in Hunan Province were cheated out of thousands of yuan when their brides-to-be from Sichuan Province fled after receiving their dowries.

Xia said the influx of rural women to major cities has compounded problems faced by bachelors in rural areas.

Difficult road to seek love

For single men in metropolises, finding love isn't necessarily easier. Single women in cities often have a higher education, salary and spousal expectations than their countryside counterparts.

"Most 'leftover women' have high standards in choosing a spouse," sighed Wang, who limits going to the cinema, mall or anywhere else popular with couples and lovers. He occasionally goes on blind dates, but dislikes the whole courtship protocol.

"It hurts my self-esteem. Why should I pursue someone? I prefer staying indoors playing games or studying," said Wang.

His last relationship, which lasted five years, fizzled out in 2010 after his girlfriend's family urged her to end it because they considered Wang financially insecure.

She refused to break up with Wang, however, and purposely gained weight to convince her parents she wouldn't find another man.

But Wang said he "couldn't be a burden to her," so took it upon himself to end the relationship.

More recently, Wang tried to make a pact with a former female colleague of the same age that they marry each other if they reach their 40s and are still single.

"But she turned me down," he said. "She said that at this age she is more realistic than in her 20s. My words failed to move her."

Although social and family pressures on 'leftover men' are considered to be less than those faced by single women, some bachelors are stressed by their dim marriage prospects. Photo: IC


Social, family pressures

Although Wang has been on the sidelines of love for some time, some "leftover men" reach their 30s without ever having been in the game.

Zhang Tongyue, a 36-year-old archaeologist, has never had a girlfriend.

Although Zhang has a sister who has married, as the only son in the family he carries the responsibility of continuing the family line.

"After I reached my 30s, my parents became very anxious and tried to set me up on blind dates," said Zhang.

Zhang flirted with a woman he described as his "online lover" for about six years, but the pair never actually met in person.

"I once was affectionate towards two women who were introduced to me by my parents. They were Christian, but as an archaeologist I felt that our values were too different," said Zhang, adding he is looking for a "beautiful woman of good character."

Ahead of his 30th birthday this year, bachelor Lin Kunpeng said he is feeling intense pressure to settle down.

Working in the music business, Lin denies being a diaosi, a term to describe young men from modest backgrounds who have little motivation, or even desire, to achieve material success.

"The reason I have been unable to find a wife has nothing to do with my finances. My social circles are very narrow and I can't find channels to meet and socialize with women," said Lin, who said "leftover women" have more pressure than their male counterparts.

Perception by women

Local bachelors considered "leftover" also suffer an image problem in the eyes of many women they try to court.

Grace Wu (pseudonym), a 31-year-old who works in the media in Beijing, described most men she has met in the blind dating scene as "weirdos."

"One winter day, I wore leggings that matched with my dress for a blind date. After our date, the guy said we were not a suitable match because he said he prefers [women] to wear qiuku (long johns) instead of leggings. We were from different worlds," laughed Wu.

Wu was also turned off by men who asked about her family and salary during their first meeting.

"No matter what their qualities are, ['leftover men'] think they are doing you a favor by coming across as a white knight to women in 30s. Some of my dates have even asked me for a dowry, including an apartment," said Wu.

Changing public discourse

Zhao Sile, editor of Media Monitor for Women Network, an organization under the All-China Women's Federation that advocates for gender equality in the media, told Metropolitan that "leftover men" are mostly diaosi, while single men of higher social status and wealth are often excluded from the group.

Zhao said most "leftover men" in big cities come from rural areas where conservative ideas, such as men being breadwinners and women staying at home, prevail.

For "leftover men" who want to find their match in big cities, Zhao suggests they change their perceptions about traditional gender roles that have little resonance in modern metropolises.

"Urban women are more independent and competent nowadays. Statistics show that many women buy apartments on their own," she said.

Xia noted using correct language is also important, noting the negative connotation of "leftover" should be avoided in public discourse.

"Staying single is a personal choice. There should be no limits on when you marry and when you have a baby," said Xia.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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