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Monday, November 22, 2004

Taiwanification of Chinese brides

If re-unification pressure doesn't start a war between Taiwan and China, the Taiwanification of Chinese brides certainly could. Chinese men are going to have a hard enough time finding marriagable women as the gender gap continues to catch up with the Chinese population as it ages-- without wealthy Taiwanese suitors making off with their young ladies. This story about increasing cross-strait marriages adds a whole new element to the conflict between Taiwan and mainland China

From the Los Angeles Times (free subscription required to read the entire article)

Unions Across a Divide
Despite cross-strait tensions, Taiwanese men are flocking to China to find and bring back young brides who are eager for a better life.

By Mark Magnier, Times Staff Writer

LIUZHOU, China and Taiwan and China may be rattling sabers, targeting missiles and threatening war, but that doesn't stop [a Taiwanese man from looking for love on mainland China].


Despite years of hostility between Taiwan and China, a bridge between the two adversaries is quietly being built by thousands of cross-strait marriages every year. Nowadays, more than 20% of all Taiwanese marry a mainlander, about 55,000 annually, compared with 14% five years ago. The majority of couples meet on their own through friends or business dealings. For those ... without the time or inclination to do their own legwork, however, a vibrant business has developed. Taiwanese men pay $5,000 to $10,000 for a trip to the mainland, scores of introductions and help with the marriage certificate and related paperwork.


Not everyone thinks cross-strait pairings are such a great idea. Given China's one-child policy, some parents of prospective brides fret about losing their only offspring to Taiwan, which can seem a world away. Occasionally the bride's family will ask for compensation, or raise the fear that a Taiwanese earthquake or Chinese attack on Taiwan could put her in harm's way.


Although China and Taiwan share a heritage and language, there are inevitable cultural barriers to overcome after half a century apart.

"Mainland girls, especially northerners, like strong, spicy food, while older Taiwanese prefer theirs mild," said agent Yu. "Food is so important to the Chinese, it can break up a marriage." ... And while mainland brides are becoming more mainstream, Taiwanese society can still look down on them as bumpkins with funny accents.


As the number of cross-strait couples rises, some see a quiet but important political dividend in the making. "In ancient history, warring kings married daughters to the other side to calm things down," said [cross straits marriage broker] Zhu on a trip to Liuzhou with six Taiwanese bachelors." In the same way, I think these marriages can also be an important stabilizing force between China and Taiwan."

"If Chinese President Hu Jintao had a Taiwanese wife and Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian had a mainland wife, the world would be a lot better off," said Yu Ming-ming, a matchmaker with Taipei's Wedding Information Center agency. "I feel we're a really important link."

Mr. Yu may well have to eat his words. The march of time bringing the mainland Chinese gender gap to a head will soon prove this to be a risky philosphy, as this report from the from the Detroit Free Press, which is echoed in somewhat less drastic terms in China Daily, cautions.
China now has the most serious problems with gender imbalance in the world. The nation has 12.7 million more boys than girls under age 9. By 2020, it may have 30 million to 40 million restless young men unable to find spouses.
The gender gap, blamed on the combination of the one-child policy in China (though China Daily scoffs at this, of course) and the traditional preference for male offspring are going to make for overheated tempers if Taiwanese men continue to cherry-pick brides from the mainland.

Thanks to my dear friend and colleague Marc Shnapp for the email tip on this one.

// posted by Ellen @  19:22   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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