China: Foreign men lose appeal

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent

BEIJING – Ouch! You know the economic crisis is really rippling when it starts making foreign men less attractive to Chinese women.

Chinese dating websites report a recent drop in the number of women seeking foreigners, but that is not because of a sudden availability of Chinese bachelors. It’s because one of the big advantages Western men seem to offer – a financially secure future – now looks a lot less certain.

“Foreigners’ pockets are shrinking,” says Cao Lei, spokesman for the Hongniang dating website. “Many of them ... can’t even pay their mortgages. It doesn’t make sense for a woman who wants a stable life to marry abroad.”

As China has opened up to the world, the number of mainland Chinese marrying foreigners has risen from 26,000 in 1991 to 68,000 in 2006, says the Ministry of Civil Affairs. A recent report in Global Times, a popular tabloid here, recounted the new woes of many Chinese women married in Germany: “Many Chinese women married their husbands for their success and now they are losing their jobs and cars,” the article said. “At the same time these women have to take more care of their families in China because of the crisis.”

It seems the financial crisis has spooked a lot of 30-something single career women into seeking refuge in marriage. Nearly two-thirds of Hongniang’s female clients today are over 28 and earn a professional salary. That’s up 30 percent from a year ago.

“Many women earned less [in] bonuses this year,” says Mr. Cao. “They are not as optimistic about the future as they used to be. They are looking for protection.”

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