Unlucky in love on the mainland? Why not go to Vietnam, where Chinese bachelors can find “true love”, or more specifically, where they can “search for brides who won't demand apartments or private vehicles as a precondition for marriage.” This, according to an advertisement from a famous Chinese group-buying website 55 Tuan offering a free trip to Vietnam for a number of lonely hearts in celebration of China's Bachelor's Day on November 11.
Faced with the increasingly high cost of marrying Chinese women, whose families often demand expensive gifts in exchange for their daughter's hand, and the country's imbalanced ratio of men to women, more and more bachelors in China are looking abroad for love. All together, 28,629 hopefuls participated in 55 Tuan's give away.
China's competitive and expensive marriage marketplace
In the past few years, more and more men have expressed their frustration on the Chinese web with the high cost of marriage in China. It is customary that the Chinese bride’s family will make a list of very specific demands for the future groom as a pre-condition of the marriage. The ownership of an apartment and a car as well as a steady job with a high salary are the top priorities on the bride's parents’ wish list. But it is almost impossible for a bachelor of average income to buy an apartment all by himself.
In contrast, it only cost tens of thousands of yuan (approximately a few thousands US dollars) to marry a Vietnamese girl, which is affordable for most Chinese bachelors. Plus, a popular notion says that Vietnamese girls are hardworking, simple and devoted to the family.
China's imbalanced sex ratio also contributes to the shortage of brides on the Chinese marriage marketplace. According to an article [zh] on ifeng news, the current ratio of men to women in China is 119:100. In some regions, that the ratio reaches 130:100. The imbalance is rooted in feudal Chinese culture, which values boys more than girls. Coupled with the one-child policy and modern technology that allows parents to know the gender of a baby early on in the pregnancy, the preference for boys has resulted in extremely lopsized gender ratios in newborns, particularly in some remote rural areas. For example, the ratio among infants in Wuxue (武穴) Hubei province is as high as 198.3:100, according to China's fifth population census [zh].
In the case of Vietnam, it once was the opposite — women outnumbered men. But in recent years, the male population has slightly outnumbered the female, and that problem has been exacerbated as more and more Vietnamese girls choose to marry foreigners in order to seek a better life. Since the end of last century, more than 294,000 Vietnamese girls from poor areas have married foreigners [zh], among which Chinese and Korean are the most popular choices.
Nevertheless, the frequency of Vietnamese-Chinese cross-border marriage fraud has increased [zh]. More and more Vietnamese brides flee their Chinese husbands soon after they arrive in China. In some cases, the arranged marriage agents are involved in the scam. In response to the situation, the Chinese police department has claimed that [zh] they will crack down on commercial Vietnamese bride arrangement services.
‘Why not marry a foreign girl for cheaper?’
Against such a backdrop, 55 Tuan's advertisement stirred up a lot of discussion online. The website defended that the lottery event was to provide a free group tour for lucky bachelors to Vietnam. The marriages, if any, will be purely based on love.
While commercial cross-border arranged marriages and mail-order brides are considered by global civil society to be a form of human trafficking and thus immoral, a substantial number of Chinese netizens on popular microblogging website Sina Weibo are against the police crackdown on these “marriage services”.
Writer Shang Jianguo believed the Chinese consumers’ desire for “group buying” of Vietnamese brides only reflected the escalating problem of the imbalanced gender ratio and its impact on the marriage market:
The phenomena of “group buying of Vietnamese brides” indicates the social problem of leftover men. According to the sixth population census, the gender ratio of unmarried post-80s generation is 136:100, 206:100 for post-70s. 11,959,000 males between 30 and 39 years old remained single, while only 5,820,000 females are single.
@Zhazi77 has reached marriage age and has started worrying about his future:
I am a master's student. Born into a poor family, I don't know if I can earn more than 2,500 RMB (approximately 400 US dollars) per month upon graduation. I would be thankful to the whole world if I could get married before I reach 35!
Jiu Hengxing, an IT business microblog account, wrote that marriage is a form of economy and thus it is rational to seek brides overseas:
It is very hard to find a bride on a blind date if you don’t have an apartment or car in a big city. Even if the girl is willing to marry you, you still have to deal with her mother. Since the cost of marriage has increased, why not marry a foreign girl for cheaper?
As the marriage economy is tied up with property development in China, “Big eye brother” mocked the police intention to crack down on “group buying” of Vietnamese bride as serving the interest of property developers:
Of course the police need to take action [against the Vietnamese bride arrangement services], because if all men marry Vietnamese women, what would we do with the real estate economy in mainland China?
But Yuan Yi, a journalist, did not think that such relationships will last long:
I learned about the whole process of marrying a Vietnamese girl after I watched a documentary on Vietnamese brides in Taiwan. Lots of Vietnamese beauties marry a man in mainland China or Taiwan because of the wealth gap. But cross-border marriages can only last long if the couple can overcome their cultural differences.