“Singleism” Trend Challenges China’s Traditional Marriage Norms

Last Updated on March 7, 2024 12:39 pm

In a cultural shift challenging traditional marriage norms, a growing number of Chinese women are choosing a life of singledom, citing concerns about sacrifice, career development, and a desire for autonomy. This trend, often referred to as “singleism,” presents a unique challenge for the Chinese government as it grapples with declining birth rates and seeks to promote a “birth-friendly society.”

Freelance copywriter Chai Wanrou, echoing the sentiments of many young women in China, expressed her skepticism about marriage, highlighting the sacrifices women often make at home. The 28-year-old feminist emphasized the challenges faced by previous generations of women who sacrificed their careers for marriage and did not achieve the promised happiness.

President Xi Jinping’s call for a “new culture of marriage and childbearing” reflects the government’s concern over declining population numbers, with Premier Li Qiang emphasizing efforts to create a more supportive environment for childbirth. However, the rising popularity of “singleism” among educated women suggests a shift away from the traditional nuclear family model.

Official data reveals that China’s single population aged over 15 reached a record 239 million in 2021, with a 2021 Communist Youth League survey indicating that 44% of women do not plan to marry. While marriage remains a milestone in Chinese society, delayed marriages are becoming more common, with the average age of first marriage rising.

Feminist activist Lü Pin sees the trend as a form of non-violent disobedience towards the patriarchal state, especially as the Communist Party emphasizes the nuclear family’s role in social stability. The stigma around unmarried mothers and limited benefits for single individuals present challenges to those who choose the “singleism” lifestyle.

Online communities, such as forums and social media platforms, have emerged, providing a space for like-minded individuals, primarily women, to express solidarity and discuss collective retirement plans. Hashtags like “No marriage, no children” gain popularity on platforms like Xiaohongshu, reflecting the growing resonance of the “singleism” movement.

Several factors contribute to this trend, including disillusionment with patriarchal family dynamics, difficulty finding enlightened male partners, and a desire for self-exploration. The oversupply of highly educated women, coupled with a shortage of similarly educated men, adds another layer to the complex landscape of modern Chinese relationships.

While not all women embracing singledom identify as feminists or deliberate government defiers, their choices collectively signal a broader trend of female empowerment expressed through personal decisions. Analysts foresee challenges to China’s demographic goals as delayed marriages and falling fertility rates become increasingly prevalent.

“In the long run, women’s enthusiasm for marriage and childbirth will only continue to decrease,” warns feminist Lü Pin. “I believe this is the most important long-term crisis that China will face.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *