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Internet becomes "matchmaker" for young Chinese
Updated: 2004-03-15 14:40

Zheng Yang, a 25-year-old architectural designer, spends at least five hours a day surfing on the Internet, but not just for work or sending e-mails to friends.

To Zheng, the most important thing is that he can conduct on-line talks with his girlfriend, a primary school teacher in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China.

As a shy young man in real life, Zheng is active in the virtual world. Besides his girlfriend, he has many on-line good friends.

"It's not a rare thing for a netizen to have on-line friends of the opposite sex and even to find a girlfriend or boyfriend," said Li Zhenlin, a graduate student of a Beijing-based university. "Many of my classmates and friends have had such experience."

Li and his girlfriend surnamed Wang, first met on the Internet.

Currently, "Net-love" is no longer a strange word to many young Chinese, and on-line recreational activities have sprung up.

Statistics available show that the number of netizens in China reached 79.5 million by the end of last year, and 32.2 percent of them said the purpose of surfing on the Internet was to have fun and make friends.

For this reason, famous Chinese websites such as Sina.com and Netease.com have launched special columns titled "Super men and women" to attract Internet surfers.

www.zj.com, the largest regional website in China, has opened a"UU Club" for 6 million local netizens in east China's Zhejiang Province.

With the catchword "Making Local Friends", the club was designed in the hope of becoming the biggest and the safest platform for Zhejiang's netizens to make on-line friends, sources with the website said.

Influenced by time-honored tradition, many senior Chinese citizens do not quite agree with young people's pursuit of on-line friends, especially a girlfriend or a boyfriend.

"My mother doesn't approve of my way of pursuing a girlfriend on the Internet," said Zheng Yang, the young architectural designer in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

Zheng said his mother hoped he could find his girlfriend in real life but not through the Internet, as she believed that on-line friends were not trustworthy.

For much of Chinese history, marriages between young men and women were decided by the will of their parents and the words of a matchmaker. Young couples often had not even met before they got married.

Young Chinese were able to choose partners freely after the founding of New China in 1949. Some become lovers on their own, but some were introduced to each other by relatives and friends due to various reasons, such as confined social circles, or being too timid and shy.

It has become an irrefutable fact that young people welcome the new method of making friends, said a manager of a local net company in Zhejiang Province. "It's time to think more about how to help young people enjoy themselves on the Internet."

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