A Chinese female blogger who posed as a man’s Lunar New Year girlfriend says her experience illustrates the generational tensions over finding a marriage partner in China.
Zhao Yuqing, a recent law graduate, says she was intrigued by the websites and mobile apps aimed at single people looking to hire an instant partner whom they can present to relatives during the holiday period.
During this time, single men and women are often subjected to lectures from family members keen on reinforcing the importance of marriage and securing the family bloodline.
Some singles resort to hiring fake girlfriends and boyfriends through date-for-hire apps and websites.
Educated and attractive twentysomethings can command fees of 3,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan (£340 to £1,130) a day over the busy festive period.
Yuqing said in her online advertisement that she wanted the experience of being a holiday companion and would only charge for transport to the person’s home town.
Out of a pool of 700 respondents, Yuqing chose Wang Quanming, a website operator in his early thirties from the rural south.
“He is being pressured to find a wife and his need to rent a girlfriend is real,” Yuqing says.
Before setting off in January for Quanming’s family home in the hills of Fujian, the pair hammered out details of the false long-distance relationship to tell his parents, and set ground rules for the home visit.
There was to be no kissing, sleeping together or drinking alcohol, but she was ready to help with household chores, Yuqing and Quanming agreed in a handwritten contract.
When the couple arrived, Quanming’s mother, Nong Xiurong, tried to make Yuqing feel at home and respected her son’s request to leave the two alone and not ask questions about their relationship.
After the visit, Yuqing returned to Beijing and wrote a blog post on the social media app WeChat, saying she had a “wonderful experience” at Quanming’s home.
Quanming says he decided to end the deception because he feared it could make the situation worse with his mother. He sent Yuqing’s blog to Xiurong.
In a telephone interview, Xiurong says she is not upset by what happened and she is moved by Yuqing’s blog.
“At the start, I didn’t know they were cheating me,” she says. “I’m over 50. I don’t understand what these young people get up to, but I wasn’t angry.”
Nevertheless, Xiurong says she still worries about her son finding a partner.
“My mother’s core demand for me to marry early still exists,” Quanming adds.
For Yuqing, the experience highlights how hard it is to resolve the generational tensions over marriage in China, where traditional notions remain strong in rural areas.
“The special situation in the village magnifies everything,” Yuqing says. “They face a greater urgency to marry, so that makes it much harder to find a truly suitable other half.”
Reporting by Christian Shepherd
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