Crossing the great relationship divide

By Zhang Yuchen ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-03-28 09:15:16

Crossing the great relationship divide

Wang Xiaoying/China Daily

A growing number of Chinese men are looking to forge friendships with foreign women, and buck the cultural trend of "marrying up", as Zhang Yuchen reports.

Even though she has lived in Beijing for several years, Chinese men are still a closed book to Cathie Watson. The 27-year-old from the UK says she is unable to read the signs - or more accurately, the lack of signs - given off by Chinese men. "Quiet", "hard to reach out to" and "shy" are the words that emerge when Watson tries to describe them.

"I have rarely met a Chinese man who greeted me proactively or initiated a discussion," said the English teacher at a school in Beijing. "They don't seem to be fun to hang out with."

Crossing the great relationship divide

Creating the 'third culture' 

Conversely, a few Chinese guys do go to the opposite extreme. Watson said total strangers have approached to ask for her phone number. "They hadn't even spoken with me, so how come they can they just ask for my phone number?"

Although Watson's impressions of Chinese men suggest a lack of engagement, an increasing number of them are becoming interested in meeting non-Chinese women for long-term relationships.

Studies show that it's rare for Asian men to marry Western women. Usually, the process of "marrying up" involves women from less-developed countries marrying Western men, according to Ming Li, a senior marriage counselor in Shanghai. Against that backdrop, Asian men marrying women from outside their own ethnic grouping are in a distinct minority.

However, Hu Yiqiang is hoping to buck the trend. He has set his heart on finding a non-Chinese wife or partner, mainly because he is frustrated at the demands made by Chinese women - a big house, a luxury car and a good job are the usual requirements cited by Chinese dates, Hu said, but that's not what he wants.

When he posted ads on the website of a famous Beijing lifestyle magazine, his sole intention was to find a wife from overseas. "I like girls who are: Kind, show filial piety and are self-motivated. They are the best," Hu wrote in his ad. " I'm willing to go shopping with her; or rather, I'm willing to accompany her to do whatever she wants or plans to do."

The 31-year-old Hubei province native works as street vendor, but he also owns an online shop that sells Chinese-themed travel souvenirs. With only a middle high school graduation diploma, he was unable to enter higher education, and so he moved to Beijing to work and began teaching himself English.

Hu met his first foreign girlfriend, a Norwegian, on the campus of Beijing Second Foreign Language University. "She asked me to move to Norway with her, but I was afraid of the chilly weather there," he said. "I was too young to grasp the chance." Later a Japanese friend rejected his advances because of his low level of formal education.

Despite having been turned down by almost all the Chinese women he's dated a couple of times, Hu, who has adopted the English name David, remains optimistic about his chances in the marital lottery.

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