ca. 1996, Nankai, Guizhou Province, China --- Crowd at Little Flower Miao Festival --- Image by © Keren Su/Corbis

In a Country of 1.35 Billion, a Good Man Can Still Be Hard to Find

China's changing social standards and shifting economics have created a new class of single, dateless professional females—the "leftover women"

There are 20 million more men than women in China. In theory, that lopsided gender ratio should make things fairly easy for Chinese women on the hunt for prime husband material. Economic and social realities, however, alter that equation.

Today’s sophisticated, professional Chinese woman is unwilling to settle for a man who doesn’t earn enough money to support a family (that is, the majority of men). Matter of fact, China now has the highest number of self-made female millionaires. Consequently, many young female professionals find themselves single well into their mid-20s and beyond—a new phenomenon for this once very traditional country. With their eye ever toward social engineering, the Chinese government is none too pleased that so many men are unable to find wives. Laying the pressure on thick, state media has started to refer these single ladies as “leftover women,” which is pretty rough.

The population is taking the harsh message to heart, though. In Shanghai, for instance, parents of unwed men and women head to People’s Park to list their children in a weekly marriage market. The grounds are littered with posters advertising the eligible bachelors’ and bachelorettes’ age, height, education and income. But despite its thousands of listings each week, the marriage market is not a guaranteed answer.

And so, those who can afford it enlist the help of a professional matchmaker to get them on dates. As part of our collaboration with MSNBC, Vocativ visited the offices of a matchmaker who caters to Shanghai’s elite and spoke to Yi Ru Zhuo, a successful female entrepreneur and former model. She is only 25 and determined to find a husband before she is branded a leftover woman. “I have a lot of girlfriends that are leftovers,” she tells us. “They’re beautiful, successful in their careers, own their own apartments in Shanghai…but don’t have love.” As to what she is seeking in a spouse, she says, “I’m looking for a partner who is at least 5-foot-9, makes more money than I do, owns an apartment and is committed to his family.”

The matchmaker says these prerequisites are common. “The social structure has changed in China. Most urban women work now and very few stay at home. Because of this they have high expectations and refuse to lower their standards. They won’t go for a younger man, who makes less money and doesn’t own a house.”

To better her chances of finding a mate, Yi also looks to the People’s Park marriage market for help. Her parents list her every week, but she has not had any takers thus far.

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