Finding 'Love' in China: An Overview of Chinese Marriage Markets (BaiFaXiangQin)
Step 5: Meeting Face-to-Face
According to Stanley Milgram (1984), online relationships eventually have to move beyond the computer and have a face-to-face meeting to accept each others' full complexity as a human being. If the potential partners find each other compatible online, they will meet face-to-face on a date. The date's location is pre-determined online and the location reveals the man's financial situation and sincerity.
Usually, men with more financial means will pick high-end Western restaurants, while those with regular financial means will pick quiet coffee joints, teashops, or fast-food restaurants like McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken (Sun, 2012a). The women generally prefer crowded locations as they are frequently anxious about safety issues when meeting with the man for the first time (Gibbs, Ellison, & Lai, 2011). Once both of them meet face-to-face, online communication becomes progressively extraneous (Whitty & Carr, 2006).
Potential matches treat the first date as a screening process and use it as a test to see whether they should continue with the relationship (Long, 2010, Whitty, 2008). Both the potential partners are highly critical on this date and observe each other meticulously to try to discern whether they are suited for a serious relationship that might lead to marriage. In certain cases, the parents will accompany the potential partners to help break the ice (Sun, 2012a).
Despite the rising popularity of Marriage Markets in mainland China, especially in Shanghai, the rate of success is very low (Bolsover, 2011; Warner, 2010) due to various variables. Many singles today do not approve of BaiFaXiangQin and prefer to engage in voluntary dating relationships, viewing them as acceptable options in finding a marital partner. Since the new Marriage Law was passed in 1950, the custom of arranged marriages is slowly giving way to common dating behaviours (Xu, 1994).
Many women in cities now want more independence and personal freedom (Fincher, 2014; Lee & Subramanian, 2011), and BaiFaXiangQin goes against those principles. Despite this trend, according to Fincher (2014), the message of "leftover women" driven by China's state media (Fong & Fincher, 2014) has been so effective that it has led to a domino effect of negative consequences, one of the key reasons that has driven marriage markets today despite its low success rate. As long as the patriarchal culture in China persists (To, 2013; Fincher, 2014), Marriage Markets and BaiFaXiangQin will remain a permanent fixture in mainland China.
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