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Women should stay in countryside to serve unmarried men, says Chinese official

Hunan official's suggestion sparks online outrage among Chinese netizens

Graffiti advertising marriage agent spray-painted on wall of warehouse in Pei County in eastern China's Jiangsu Province.

Graffiti advertising marriage agent spray-painted on wall of warehouse in Pei County in eastern China's Jiangsu Province. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A controversial official memo titled, "Suggestion about treating aging young men’s difficulty to find mate seriously," posted on a government website in Xiangyin County in China’s Hunan Province has sparked a series of online fiascos.

The new policy aims to “encourage young women to stay in their hometown” as a solution to fix the fact that many men in rural villages are unable to find a wife. However, it was the response to the issue by the originator of the proposal, Wu Xiang (吳襄), that triggered public outrage.

“If a person reaches the age of 60 and above, without offspring, how should he manage his life? If he gets sick, who should serve him?” Wu said, when Jiupai News asked him about what problems may arise from the difficulty in finding a spouse.

The quote was included in the headline of the Jiupai News article, which made it go viral. On Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, furious users criticized the statement, writing “Are we just blatantly using words like ‘serve’ now?”

“About the issue of, ‘There is no one to serve single men who have grown old when they get sick,’ I have a totally failproof suggestion,” wrote a user named Yani Emperor. “Make single men aged 40-60 serve those aged 70-90, one on one, point to point, serve them like it’s a legacy to be carried on. Once the men who served another grows old, they can enjoy being served by a new batch of single men.”

Another user named SadTUNA suggested netizens compare the quote to another trending tag, which read, “Women’s willingness to marry is distinctively lower than men’s.” The tag focuses on the results of a study that showed young women from Generation Z to be far less interested in marriage than their male counterparts.

Wu, however, was unbothered by the backlash. When asked about netizens’ views of him, Wu said around 80% of people were supportive, while the other 20% believe it would be difficult to execute his policy.

According to Wu, the two reasons men cannot find mates are that “girls all go out to work, which is a problem,” and “traditional values cause the fact that there are more boys than girls.”

He added that “the boys who cannot find a mate are generally uncultured and cannot find jobs, they dabble in this and that, and have no money.” Meanwhile, “women who cannot find a mate all come from backgrounds with high social standards.”

He told Jiupai News he believes that people do not have the freedom to choose whether to marry or not, since traditionally Chinese believe not having offspring is the worst offense against filial piety.

Soon after the interview with Wu surfaced, an article in support of Wu’s policy was published on Red Net. It was entitled, “A program to warm the beds of old men in farm villages is much needed.”

This sparked another round of anger among netizens, prompting a response from an overseas branch of People’s Daily, which said the statement had objectified women. Eventually, the title was edited, and it now reads, “A resolution to fix the fact that old men in rural villages face difficulty in finding a wife is much needed.”

Since China adopted the one-child policy in the 1980s, there has been a huge disparity in the sex ratio at birth. In 2007, the BBC reported, “China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020.”

The imbalance stems from traditional beliefs that boys are better than girls, as they pass on the family name. Parents were known to abort baby girls, hide them, abandon them, or kill them in order to save their quota for a boy.

On Saturday (Oct. 9), while netizens were still reeling from the articles surrounding Xiangyin County’s new policy, a video surfaced in which a Chinese mother tearfully apologizes to her daughter for “throwing her away.” The girl, who was adopted by an American couple and reconnected with her mother online, told her, “No, thank you, I really appreciate it, it was a good thing.”

The irony of the girl’s cheerfulness set against the melancholic music and wailing woman was not lost on Weibo users. Commentators pointed out the men in the video showed hardly any reaction to the reunion, and the netizens also accused the mother of faking emotions.

Updated : 2021-10-24 09:07 GMT+08:00