There are nearly 200 million single adults in China, accounting for 14.6 percent of the total population, according to 2018 Chinese government statistics. Around 17 per cent of Chinese adults live alone, compared to 42 per cent in the United States. By one estimate there are 92 million young adults in China that are not married and have no intention of being so and there are over 40 million empty-nest youths. The Chinese government doesn’t like these numbers and and is trying to change them.

Cheryl Teh wrote in Business Insider: The idea of "empty nest youth" in China being a "threat to society" has sparked an online debate on popular social networking platform Weibo. Statistics released by the Chinese government indicate that around 15 million more Chinese singles opted to live alone in 2021 than in 2018. Debate is swirling around whether these singles are doing so by choice, or due to circumstances beyond their control. “Being single and living alone is not a mortal sin. If it were, then 92 million of us are going to hell." These were the sentiments of a 29-year-old woman who goes by the online handle Baobao. Baobao lives in Guangzhou and is a self-professed "single for life." “Young Chinese people like Baobao are termed "empty-nest" youth — as they are, by choice or otherwise — living alone, without seeking out romantic relationships, getting married, or having children. This has become a hot topic on Chinese social networking site Weibo, where 2.9 billion people have read about and weighed in on the matter. This trend prompted Chinese official Hu Wei to suggest at this year's National People's Congress (China's annual political conference) that political departments pay more attention to the "marriage and love issues of the empty-nest youths" by providing them with "services related to their physical and mental health." [Source: Cheryl Teh, Business Insider, March 10, 2021]

“Concerns have also arisen that this phenomenon could hurt China's birth rate, according to a article. Chinese news site Dazhong did a poll of its readers to find out why there was an uptick in singles opting into the "empty nest life." Around 41 percent of those polled cited the main reason as being "actively choosing to be single, and tiring of useless romantic entanglements." Another 38 percent said being an "empty nest youth" was also a choice made by those "escaping from the responsibilities of starting a family." Meanwhile, 13 percent of poll respondents said that they were forced to live alone due to "life and economic pressures," while around 7 percent said it was because they were "unable to find true love."

“But what do young Chinese think about the "empty nest youth" phenomenon? There are conflicting views on the matter. “With so many dating apps, there's no reason why you should be single. You're either very short, very ugly, or completely broke. Think of your family and the shame it brings them to have a son who can't find a wife," said HuTaoPuTao, a 28-year-old Weibo user living in Beijing.

“But others think that whether you have chosen the "empty nest" life (or if the empty nest life has chosen you” — one should be left to live their life as they please. “Why do I need the burden of a wife and a child when I'm happy on my own?" said YouyouZi, 33, from Nanjing. "I do not feel like a disgrace. We live in a new world now." “It's the 21st century. I work hard, play hard, and have tons of money," said Shanghainese Weibo user WuXi, 31. "If I want to live and die alone as a leftover woman with twenty cats, it's no one's business but mine."

World of Chinese Singles: Casual Sex and Late Marriage

Jue Ren wrote of the China Policy Institute wrote:“As the lifestyle of” China’s singles “changes under a wave of individualisation, so too do the sex lives of these young people. Amidst this growing spirit of independence, more and more women are willing to express their own demands relating to the quality of sexual relationships and sexual life. On one hand, sex positive females are still faced with the social stigma surrounding the virtue of virginity. But it is ever more difficult to find virgins of dating age in China. Thus we have a paradox of a strengthening one-night stand culture whilst at the same time more traditional attitudes prevail such as the idea of a woman who is not a virgin ostensibly losing value in the marriage market. [Source: by Jue Ren, China Policy Institute: Analysis, September 26, 2017]

“I have been involved in the organisation of four blind-date activities in Shenzhen this year, coming into contact with numerous single men and women as a result. The majority of these groups signed up online to participate in off-line activities. The women were noticeably more active than the men. The patterns of activity appeared to conform with the more traditional Chinese view relating to the respective worth of men (emphasising remaining independence) and women (of less value due to advancing years) at the age of thirty. Generally speaking, despite being the same age, there appears to be distinct value differences relating to marriage and timescale. Men were much more likely to focus on career development whilst women were more likely to be proactively seeking marriage partners.

“Additionally, the majority of these women accepted premarital sex and in fact were eager to learn more. However there were clear trends amongst men who disliked and in some cases despised sexually active women. These men exhibited spouse selection strategies the focused on “gentle” and “virtuous” traits amongst women, and even emphasised skills such as housekeeping. Differences in attitudes toward sex are the cause of multiple issues surrounding both dating and spouse selection of young people.

“As lifestyles have seemingly sped up, time and indeed opportunities to meet have become scarcer. As a result, premarital sex has become more prevalent and marriage is no longer an essential safety shelter for sexual behaviour. Unmarried men and women increasingly affirm and pursue one-night stands and more individual sexual behaviour.

“These traits are exaggerated further for the post 00s generation, born into an already well-developed network. They search for intimate companions using online platforms in which they are active (for example Baidu Tieba) and they are familiar with “text sex”, ”audio sex” and ”video sex”. These groups exhibit online sexual behaviour that was referred to as “naked chat” ten years ago. These online sexual behaviours form an important part of the existing dating landscape. The internet is influencing the sexual behaviour modes of Chinese people whilst at the same time, sexual behaviour modes are influencing the status of marriage. The internet, sex and marriage, three separate spheres are increasingly related, representing a triune that exerts considerable influence on contemporary China.”

Imperative to Get Married and Have Children in China

Confucius taught that not having children was the height of filial impiety. On the Internet you can get some sense of what that means. One person quoted by Reuters wrote on one chat line: “My parents threatened to never see me again or even to commit double suicide if I don’t have a baby soon...Many coworkers look at me like a jerk, an impotent, or a sick person, just because I’ve been married for two years and have no child yet.”

Elements of what Arthur Henderson Smith wrote in “Village Life in China” in 1899 still remain true today: “We have repeatedly referred to the imperative necessity that every Chinese youth should be married. To a foreigner there is a mixture of the ludicrous and the pathetic in the attitude of the average parent, in regard to a marriage of a son who has nearly reached the age of twenty and is still single. It is a Chinese aphorism of ancient times that when sons and daughters are once married, “the great business of life has been despatched.” Chinese parents look upon the marriage of their sons just as Western parents look upon the matter of taking young boys out of their early dresses and putting them into trousers. The serious part of life cannot be begun until this is done, and to delay it is ridiculous and irrational. There is a sentiment of false modesty which forbids the persons most interested in a marriage, even to refer to it. It is often impossible for any one but the mother to hint to a girl that it is time she were betrothed, an announcement which is naturally the frequent occasion for stormy scenes. [Source: “Village Life in China” by Arthur Henderson Smith, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899, The Project Gutenberg]

“A Chinese teacher well known to the writer, having graduated from a missionary college at the age of twenty-three, remembered that he was not betrothed. When matters had been arranged without his appearing to be aware of the fact (although he was consulted at each step) it became necessary to visit his home to arrange with his parents the time of the marriage. But the sensitive young man refused to go on this errand himself, and posted off a “yard uncle,” urging as a more than sufficient reason: “How could I speak to my father and mother about such a thing as that?”

“Chinese parents are never willing to run the risk of having the marriage of any of their children, especially the sons, postponed until after the death of their parents. They often feel uncertain whether the children already married will be willing to make the proper provision for the event, or indeed that they will let it take place at all. Affairs of this sort involve the partition of the land, with a portion to each married son, and it is not in human nature to wish to multiply the sharers in a property which is too often at the best wholly inadequate. For this cause, every prudent parent wishes to see this “main business of life,” put through while he is able to superintend the details.

“The inexorable necessity for the marriage of sons is not suspended by the fact that the child is wholly unsuited for a real marriage, or indeed incapable of it. Cases constantly occur, in which a boy who is a hopeless and helpless cripple is married to a girl, whose family only assent to the arrangement, because of the advantageous terms which are offered. Children who are subject to epileptic or other forms of fits, those who are more or less insane, and even those who are wholly idiotic, all may have, and do have, wives, provided only that the families of the boys were in good circumstances. The inevitable result of this violation of the laws of nature, is an infinity of suffering for the girls whose lives are thus wrecked, and the evolution of a wealth of scandal."

In another story related to this: “A Chinese friend called on the writer with an air of pleased embarrassment about “a little matter” which seemed to interest him. He is more than forty years of age, and had never been married. He has two brothers, all three sharing in common a property amounting to less than two English acres. This brother had been at home for some months, during which there was no mention of matrimony, nor any thought of it. Having left home for a few weeks, before the time was nearly expired the elder brother posted off a special messenger to a distance of more than 300 li to mention to him the fact that he had suddenly arranged a betrothal for this forty years old bachelor, to a girl of seventeen, whose friends were now pressing for an immediate execution of the contract. The interview closed with the expression of an earnest wish on the part of the Chinese that his foreign friend would see his way clear to “a loan” of twenty strings of cash for the bride’s outfit, the bridegroom having no independent property whatever, and no income. The comment of ninety-nine out of an hundred Chinese on this match, or on any other in similar circumstances would be compendiously condensed in the single word “hao,” meaning when fully explicated, “It is well; this is what certainly ought to be done now.” Questions of expense appear to them as irrelevant as they would to us if the matter was the burial of a parent."

Left Over Women (Unmarried Over Age 27) in China

Unmarried females in China are often stigmatised as "sheng nu" or leftover women. By government definition, a "leftover woman" refers to any unmarried female above the age of 27. There status has long been a topic of concern in a society that prioritises marriage and motherhood for women, especially in recent decades as the status of women has risen, views about marriage and women have changed and women insist they don’t want to get married and possibly let their careers go down the drain if they marry in their twenties.

Because China’s population is so large there has to tens of millions of unmarried women over 27 out there. A 2010 study revealed that half of the women with a university degree or above at that time were unmarried or divorced. The National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China (NBS) and state census figures reported approximately 1 in 5 women between the age of 25-29 remain unmarried. By comparison the figure for men is about 1 in 3. The 2010 Chinese National Marriage Survey reported that 9 out of 10 men believe that women should be married before they are 27 years old. About 7.4 percent of Chinese women between 30 and 34 are unmarried and 4.6 percent between the ages 35–39 are. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to the BBC: “China's ruling Communist Party tries to urge single women to marry, to offset a huge gender imbalance caused by the recently ended one-child policy. But according to Leta Hong Fincher, author of "Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China", single Chinese women are at "a real turning point" and many are beginning to embrace a single lifestyle and push back the stigma. She told the BBC: "These are young women with strength and confidence, who are being specifically targeted by the state's deliberate campaign to pressure [them] into marrying. “Chinese women today are more educated than ever before and they are increasingly resisting marriage."

One Chinese woman said in a SK-II cosmetics video: “"In Chinese culture, respecting your parents is the most important quality. And not getting married is like the biggest sign of disrespect," shared one woman, who later broke down in tears. Another woman said: "Maybe I am being selfish. People think that in Chinese society, an unmarried woman is incomplete' “The tough stances of the parents were also featured prominently. "We always thought our daughter had a great personality. But she's just average-looking, not too pretty. That's why she's leftover," said one mother, who sat next to her daughter who tried to fight back tears.

Can the single women of China see real happy endings — where society will truly accept their choices? "At the moment, that is only a fantasy," says Ms Hong Fincher, adding that the "incredible angst, personal torture and societal pressures" depicted in the advert are still prevalent. "Marriage in China is extremely patriarchal and women need to see that being single is something to be celebrated, not to be ashamed of," she says. "But I believe that this trend of women who choose to be single and independent is going to increase and this is the beginning."

Advertisement by a Japanese Cosmetics Stirs Debate About Leftover Women

In 2016, Heather Chen of the BBC wrote: “An advertisement centered around "leftover women" in China has gone viral, provoking an emotional debate about single women in the country. Called the "Marriage Market Takeover", the four-minute long documentary-style video was commissioned by Japanese beauty giant SK-II. In a statement to the BBC, SK-II President Markus Strobel said the advert was part of "a global campaign to inspire and empower women to shape their destiny". "The film brings light to the real-life issue of talented and brave Chinese women feeling pressured to get married before they turn 27, for fear of being labelled 'sheng nu'". He also said the company was adopting "a positive approach in helping women face pressures". [Source: Heather Chen, BBC News, April 8, 2016]

“Ms Hong Fincher, who had a small consulting role in the video, said what made it particularly powerful was that it depicted "the actual state" of women in the country. "This is the reality and it was told in a very creative, moving and empowering way: that these women are leading great lives in many ways, in being single," she said.

“"But the torture experienced by the women in holding out against intense marriage pressure is also extremely real. It reflects the reality of so many young women professionals in China." Image copyright SK-II “At the heart of the video is heartfelt testimony from the women themselves, with some breaking down when relating difficulties they face being single.

“But the video has proven popular online, resonating strongly with thousands of social media users. A YouTube video uploaded on the brand's official channel drew hundreds of thousands of global views and was shared widely among Facebook users. In China, the video received more than 4,000 likes and was shared close to 20,000 times on SK-II's official Sina Weibo account. It drew huge praise from vocal netizens on the popular micro-blogging site and prompted a serious discussion. "Every woman's choice should be respected in civilised society," commented Weibo user Lotus Seed Core.

“Cecilia Leung from Beijing commented: "I am a single girl and I needed to see this ad, to tell me that I am not alone and I am not wrong for my choices. One can be happy without a man, and we shouldn't be punished for our choices in life when we have not wronged others." Another user had this to share: "Age is only a number and should not be used to gauge everyone's goals in life, it's different. To sisters who have yet to meet their soul-mates, don't give up hope and listen only to your heart. Not even your parents, for only you know what is right for yourself. And if you don't, do not grieve but celebrate your life."

“Ending on a positive note, the advert sees the single women and their parents visiting a "marriage market". These "markets" are usually a place for parents to leave posters listing the details of their unmarried children, in the hopes of finding a match. “However, in this case, the parents are shown posters of their daughters, with positive messages for their parents. In one poster, a woman tells her parents: "I don't want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won't be happy that way." "I am opposed to the term 'leftover woman'," says another, with her mother adding: "The 'leftover men' need to try harder."

“Leftover Women” Versus “Victorious Women” in China

According to the New York Times “As a result, partly, of the increasingly defiant attitudes of women toward a term that many still find terribly hurtful, a riposte to “leftover women” has been born — and it’s a clever one. Yes, they’re saying, we’re “shengnu.” But that’s “sheng” as in “victorious,” not “leftover.” The pun that turns the tables on the prejudicial description is made possible by the fact that “sheng” has different meanings in Chinese depending on the written character: either “leftover” or “victorious” (or “successful,” as some prefer). Chinese is filled with homonyms, making punning a popular pastime. [Source: New York Times, April 23, 2013]

“The redefining of shengnu has been abetted by a television series, started last July, that translates as “The Price of Being a Victorious Woman.” It’s an exploration of the romantic life and career of the fictitious, unmarried Lin Xiaojie, played by the Taiwanese actress Chen Qiao En. In the series, the quirky, pretty Ms. Lin has troubled romantic encounters with attractive men. But along the way she builds a successful career. While some consider the series overly sappy, it has had the effect of spreading the concept of “victorious women” as a morale-boosting alternative to “leftover women,” and delivering unmarried Chinese women more self-respect.

“In the series, the perfect metamorphosis of Lin Xiaojie from a ‘leftover woman’ to a ‘victorious woman’ shows you that in the working world too, it’s better to be strong and in charge of your destiny than to let other people control your future,” runs a summary of the series on the Web site of, a major Chinese film and TV portal. It offers 10 pieces of practical advice to young women, including: Don’t be bad but don’t be too good, either. Learn not to be influenced by your colleagues. Don’t fall in love with your boss.

“Even the state-run media, which have long issued lugubrious warnings to young women on the perils of becoming a “leftover woman,” are — slowly — joining in. The official microblog site of People’s Daily recently displayed a post suggesting that “leftover women” needn’t despair. “Leftover women, don’t be tragic,” it said. “There are 20 million more men under 30 than women in China. So how can there be so many ‘leftover women?”’ It provided a common explanation: “Isn’t it because they’re not ‘leftover’ but ‘victorious’, and their requirements for partners are very high?” But it continued, in a less judgmental vein: “They’re free, and can stand on their own feet. As China modernizes fast, ‘leftover women’ may turn into a positive term.”

“It’s better to be “victorious” than “leftover,” said Ms. Liu, an N.G.O. worker. But overall, she’d rather not have to choose. “I think it’s a very positive word,” she said. “But it’s also kind of odd because I never thought of this as a victory or some kind of a struggle.” “We should have the right to choose what we want to do. So do we really need such a power-filled word as ‘victorious’ to describe something so normal?” Ms. Wang agreed. “I’ve heard of it and I think it’s O.K., but I don’t think it’s a question of victory or defeat,” she said. “It’s just a way of life. If I had to choose, though, I’d tend toward ‘victorious’ for sure. Still, it all feels a bit tiring.” Meanwhile, there are still many over-25-year-olds, fretting under strong societal pressure to marry, who have internalized the cultural and social values that they are “on the shelf.” China’s minimum marriage age for women is 20, so the window of opportunity for those who want to escape labeling is small. For them, “shengnu,” with its double meaning, is, at best, neutral. “I’m not completely proud of it,” said Zhou Wen, 27 and unmarried, a secretary at an American marketing company in Beijing, “but it is at least a neutral word. Not bad at all.”

Unmarried Chinese Women Denied Gynecologist Visits

Roseann Lake wrote in Jezebel: “The first time Crystal Wang had a gynecological exam was at a large medical center in the central business district of Beijing. When she arrived at the examination area, she was taken aback by a bold red sign that said, or “virgins may not be examined.” Crystal, who was 22 at the time, was not a virgin, but she was also unmarried — a combination she didn’t expect would go over well with hospital authorities. “I lied and ticked the married box on the personal information forms,” she said. [Source: Roseann Lake, Jezebel, September 10, 2015]

“Throughout the course of Crystal’s examination, the doctor and nurses were extremely kind. They asked her when she planned to have a baby, and although there was a huge line of women outside waiting to be examined, they answered all of her questions thoroughly. As she left the exam room, she noticed that another young woman who had been waiting was getting turned away. Unlike Crystal, the woman had indicated on her form that she was not married; after telling the nurse that she was sexually active and requesting an exam, she was begrudgingly given a number and directed to the back of the line. “They were treating her like trash,” Crystal said. “They were forcing her to make very personal admissions in public and clearly not giving her the same respect or attention they had given me.”

“26-year-old journalist Xinyuan Yu’s first visit to the gynecologist took place at a employer-provided health checks. Unaware that her marital status would determine which examinations she would be entitled to, she filled out the forms truthfully, and checked the box to indicate that she was unmarried. As she hopped onto the examination circuit and began going from exam room to exam room as if on one large production line, she realized that there was one room she hadn’t been assigned to, and approached the nurse at the door to ask why. “Are you married?” asked the nurse. “No,” said Xinyan. She was promptly shooed away without explanation.

“Startled, she set off to have the rest of her examinations. A blood test, eye exam, pelvic sonogram, and ear nose and throat probe later, she returned to the room where a cantankerous nurse was still standing guard. “I realized what was going on, so I got back on line and insisted on having a gynecological exam,” Xinyan said. “I wanted to make sure that I was healthy, and I didn’t think I should be made to feel like I had done anything wrong.” “You are not a virgin?” asked the nurse, loudly and impatiently. As soon as Xinyan went on the record about being sexually active, the nurse pulled out a waiver. She made Xinyan sign it, essentially freeing the hospital of any liability to the state of her hymen. Xinyan remembers how, as she signed, the nurse continued brusquely dismissing other unmarried women without any explanation.

New Year Means Parental Nagging for Unmarried Chinese

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “Chinese New Year is a time of celebration, but for many young Chinese, heading home for the week-long national holiday means facing this inevitable question from their parents: Why aren’t you married yet? This perennial source of angst has become so feared in recent years that many opt to work overtime during the festival to avoid their families altogether. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, February 17, 2015 |=|]

“Pressure to get married has a long tradition in China, but worsening the situation these days is an increasing generational and urban-rural gap in views. In big cities, more young professionals are opting to remain single well into their 30s, while those in small cities and rural areas continue to marry young. Those who stay single often face discrimination and finger pointing. Women over a certain age (around 25) are often derogatorily labeled “leftover women.” And China’s decades-old one-child policy and Chinese preferences for sons have also severely skewed the sex ratio, with the latest statistics showing 33 million more men in China than women in 2014. |=|

“Chinese parents often feel it is their responsibility to find a match for their children. And among their children, the biggest filial offense is the failure to bear offspring. Young people share tips on social media on how to fend off parental nagging during the new year. One hugely popular “manual” that’s circulated this year suggests demonstrating more anxiety than your parents over not being married or giving a lengthy report on the number of blind dates you’ve suffered through. |=|

Other choice tips: 1) Divert your parents’ attention with the latest Chinese celebrity gossip. 2) Create illusion and mystery by wearing a cheap couple’s ring, and change your screensaver to a picture with a member of the opposite sex. When asked who it is, play shy and embarrassed. 3) Collude with a fortuneteller by having the clairvoyant tell your parents that you’re simply not suited for an early marriage. |=|

In 2012, Evan Osnos of The New Yorker wrote: “A few days before the Year of the Dragon began, Jiayuan (Beautiful Destiny), China’s largest online dating service, summoned new employees to an orientation meeting at its headquarters, in a Beijing office tower. Over the holiday, single men and women across the country would be returning home to visit relatives—only to find themselves interrogated relentlessly about marriage prospects. For some, the pressure would be unbearable. Afterward, Jiayuan’s enrollment would experience a surge similar to the New Year’s surge at fitness clubs in America. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, May 14, 2012]

Fake Partners in China

Finding a new man to take home for the holidays proved surprisingly easy for Lily Li. He had to be reliable, taciturn — and available for a few hundred yuan. "I was not looking for some perfect guy to marry. Just someone tall — my parents like tall guys a lot — honest and not too talkative, so he doesn't say something wrong," explained the 26-year-old. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, January 20, 2012]

Lunar new year in particular can be a major headache for those returning home without a potential spouse. Pressure on young adults to settle down goes into overdrive, as gathering family members begin the inquisition and line up possible candidates.Taking a boyfriend or girlfriend home is a fast way to curb the speculation, which is why Li, like other twentysomethings, has hired a fake partner through an online agency.

"My parents want me to get married by 30," the office worker explained. "Bringing a 'boyfriend' back home simply means I get less hassle from relatives and my parents will stop worrying about my romantic life." Li will pay him between 500 and 700 yuan (£51-£72) a day — they are still haggling — to accompany her from Beijing to Hunan to meet her parents. "I don't need him to stay long, just one night, New Year's Eve, and he can just say work is busy and he has to go back the next day, like [the guy I hired] last year," she said.

She is keeping the meeting deliberately short to prevent her parents learning too much about him. Although she has vetted him over a coffee, she does not really know him and worries he might turn out to be a thief and steal from her home. Despite such potential drawbacks, the phenomenon has become so well established it has spawned films such as Contract Lover and a hit TV drama, Renting a Girlfriend to Return Home for New Year.

One man touting his services on Taobao — a popular online shopping site — said a "basic programme" of meeting parents and visiting relatives would cost 300 yuan a day. But, perhaps half-jokingly, he offered optional extras including doing chores (for 70 yuan an hour) and drinking China's lethal baijiu spirit with relatives (at 50 yuan per 100ml). Few "couples" will have to share bedrooms — families tend to be conservative in that regard — but some advertisers spell out the non-sexual nature of the deal, to avoid misunderstanding.This may be wise, since one agent offering fake girlfriends for bachelors did appear to have something else in mind: he was persistent in asking an inquirer whether "other services" were needed.

Hu Xingdou, a social commentator at the Beijing Institute of Technology, suggested that the trend for hiring fake partners had emerged from a clash between old and new ideas. Increasing materialism and the pressures of Chinese life made it harder for young people to find a partner, while parents still expected their children to marry young, he said. But it may also reflect another enduring Chinese belief: the importance of being filial. Many people are reluctant to upset their parents by confronting them and would rather pretend to conform.

"Taking someone fake home is definitely not what I want, but it at least can cheer up my parents," said Li Huahua, a 23-year-old graduate from Sichuan who used her nickname to preserve anonymity. "They expect me to have a boyfriend and get married at 26 or 27. Because I'm lesbian and very certain about my sexuality, it's probably more difficult for me to fulfil their demands and more necessary to find a cover."

She has persuaded a male friend to pretend they are a couple so she does not have to hire a stranger. But she still has one major concern: her mother and father might like him. "My parents might accept him as their future son-in-law and ask me to bring him again next year," she said. "It's not easy to have the same guy every time."

China’s 'Rent-A-Boyfriend' Services

In recent years, some Chinese have begun renting boyfriends or girlfriends to show their parents they have one and ease the pressure on them to marry. The practice is especially common around Lunar New Year when young adults visit their parents and are expected to show up with a spouse and children — or at least a partner. AFP reported that at least 300 different businesses selling male companionship could be found online” in February 2013, “each with varying price tags and limits of intimacy. Jane Lanhee Lee from Reuters filmed a video with one of these "rent a boyfriend" business owners, a young man willing to be your boyfriend over the Lunar New Year for the right price (there's a base rate of $90 a day). [Source: Adam Taylor, Business Insider, February 14, 2013 *]

Sean Lee Baker wrote in Al Jazeera: There used to be a section on Taobao, China's largest e-commerce site, dedicated to renting boyfriends and girlfriends for the day, but it has since been closed. These days, everything goes through QQ, China's equivalent of MSN Messenger or AOL, where the going rate is about 1,000 RMB (roughly $150) per day. [Source: Sean Lee Baker, Al Jazeera, May 25, 2016]

Xu Lin wrote in the China Daily, “Men advertising "fake boyfriend" services on, one of China's leading e-commerce providers, has prompted fierce debate online. For an hourly fee, a boyfriend-for-hire will accompany the customer to visit friends or family, go shopping, have meals, and even kiss. More than 260 fake boyfriends are available on, with more popping up after news of the service spread across the Internet. Some advertisements are targeted at those anxious to bring a boyfriend home to meet their parents, while some are for those who only want to spend time with the opposite sex. "I don't have many opportunities to meet girls. The business is not for money. It's just bored people meeting each other," said Xue Shuai, 22, from Qingdao, Shandong province, who rents himself out as a boyfriend. Xue's rented himself out for two years, but has only had about six customers, with their ages ranging from 19 to 26. He accompanies them to meals, movies, or the seaside, charging 20 yuan ($3.22) per hour. [Source: Xu Lin, China Daily, January 21, 2013 ~]

“An anonymous female buyer commented on his online store, "It's good. I enjoyed the movie with this funny guy." Because he is still single, Xue is looking forward to a romantic encounter in his business. "I think others may also share my fantasies," he said. "Some girls were not in a good mood, so I chatted with them. We only go to public places, for my own safety," he said. Beijing Normal University associate professor of psychology Lin Xiuyun said people use these services because they are lonely. Lin said people should have a positive attitude about being single and said the upcoming Spring Festival can be an opportunity to reflect on what one wants from a relationship. ~

“Gao Jianbing, 31, from Chengdu, Sichuan province, echoed Xue's comments. He opened a store on, offering similar services, with about eight men available for "rent". He said it is just a part-time job and his main online store is a flower delivery service. A few females ask for sexual services these requests are turned down. "Customers just want to relax. It's a bit like psychological consultation and they like to pour out their hearts to strangers," Gao says. ~

Image Sources: Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2021

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