The Steep Price for a Chinese Bride

Men in the relatively affluent eastern coastal province of Zhejiang typically pay $24,000 -- more than three times their average annual income -- to their future spouse's family

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CHINA PHOTOS / GETTY IMAGES

Brides line up to attend a wedding ceremony in Shaanxi province, China, on August 28, 2011

In a country where 117 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls, it might come as no surprise that Chinese men of marriageable age are willing to pay for the privilege of securing a wife. What’s startling is just how much they’re willing to shell out. According to data published by Quartz on Sunday, men in the relatively wealthy eastern coastal province of Zhejiang typically pay $24,000 — more than three times their average annual income — to their future spouse’s family.

The four other provinces where men pay the most for their wives are Shandong (where the going rate is $20,800), Shanghai ($16,000), Hubei ($12,800) and Tibet ($12,800). Quartz compiled the data provided by Vanke, a real estate company, and Sina, the Chinese-language portal. According to Quartz, the figures have “sparked debate around the nation about how the bride price tradition reflects an obsession with materialism and makes it hard for young Chinese couples to start families.”

Chinese wages as a whole have tripled over the past decade, according to the International Labor Organization’s Global Wage Report. The average annual income in China ranged from $4,688 to $7,543 in 2012, according to a Wall Street Journal report based on data released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. And despite China’s recent economic slowdown, Zhejiang’s economy is still going strong, buoyed by the consumer-goods and mechanical-and-electrical-equipment industries, according to a report last month in the China Daily.

(MORE: Chinese Grave Robbers Jailed for Selling Ghost Brides)

While some may be quick to point to China’s lowest-in-the-world female-to-male ratio, the price of brides in various provinces doesn’t always reflect the disparity or economics of specific regions. The sixth highest “bride prices” were in areas where the female deficit is less pronounced, including Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces. The prices were also relatively high in economically weaker areas like Qinghai, which had the 15th highest rates out of the 29 regions compared.

With an estimated 24 million more men than women, brides in the world’s most populous country have substantial bargaining power. Results of the 2011 Chinese Marriage Situation Survey Report, in which more than 50,000 Chinese men and women took part, showed that 92% of women thought a stable income is necessary for marriage and almost three-quarters of those surveyed believed men should only get married once they own “housing properties.”

The premium men pay for women doesn’t convey other privileges, however. “Attracting a high bride-price is not the same as gaining more autonomy, and the increased value experienced by the eastern Chinese woman occurs only on the most basic level,” Mara Hvistendahl, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, noted in her book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.

The domestic bride shortage has led to an increase in men looking outside China’s borders for an affordable life partner. Vietnam, according to scholars, is one of the most popular sources of brides for “desperate East Asian men.” And just last week, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a Chinese national was arrested in the Philippines when he attempted to smuggle two Filipino women — prospective brides — to China. It is illegal in the Philippines to arrange marriages between Filipino women and foreign nationals for profit.

25 comments
www.sharepoint
www.sharepoint

"It is illegal in the Philippines to arrange marriages between Filipino women and foreign nationals for profit."

WHAT?

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin like.author.displayName 1 Like

Chinese brides are only pricy until they turn 28, after that their marital market value is zero. In that country with 117 men to 100 women, there's tons of thirtysomething women who can't find a man.

Also the women have to be virgins, otherwise they're not nearly as valuable.

 The bizarre evaluation of the value of a woman isn't due to China's lopsided gender ratio, it's because in China, nearly all marriages are arranged.

haile.xiao
haile.xiao

I wonder if Chinese women can demand autonomy within the relationship in lieu of part or all of the bride price. Or perhaps convert the bride price into a sort of autonomy default swap, where the bride price is waived as long as her autonomy within the marriage is respected.

WinnieWindland
WinnieWindland

Check out the facial expression of these Vietnamese prostitutes.   http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4dfda3bd01000dos.html

Their faces show that they all are enjoying the sex  party. I don't think Chinese prostitutes are different. And as for Korean prostitutes, you search for the words "Korean b list model prostitution"; the videos  were caught and released by a Japanese man, targeting Korean prostitutes working in Japan. They, too, look voluntary and some are enjoying their prostitution job as the Vietnamese prostitutes do. I  feel uneasy when mass media portray prostitutes and quasi-prostitutes as total victims.


ronlle
ronlle like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So much for feminism and female equality.  Women sell their bodies all over the world.  Here in the US, it's the same.  Instead of cash, they want an expensive diamond ring, wedding ceremony, and honeymoon.  And that's only after you've paid for countless dinners, movies, and other dates.  And, of course, you better have a good job making more than her.

Please, some feminist explain to me how this isn't prostitution.


fearnothing
fearnothing like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ronlle When you consider the high risk to which women subject themselves in marriages and other domestic relationships with men, dinners, rings, etc. is not a high price to pay.  Riskier jobs are supposed to pay more--with male crime statistics what they are, marriage would certainly seem to qualify.

shirleymayatan
shirleymayatan like.author.displayName 1 Like

Supply and demand...the women can pick and choose too. Well, some will always refused to be bought. And some will not mind. May be they need the money and support desperately. Who is to judge? Either way, if one is willing to pay - you better make sure you can afford to pay all the way. 

ronlle
ronlle like.author.displayName 1 Like

Well, maybe you can't judge, but the rest of us can.  Call it what you will, these women are selling their bodies.  Rationalize it away if you want, but a prostitute is a prostitute whether she's married or not.  And don't come whining about women not being equal as long as they are selling themselves and no one will pay to marry a man.

But, you're kinda cute.  I have $50, do you wanna get married for a few hours?

canuckophile
canuckophile

Huge irony is that China may have woman shortage, but the men only wanna marry 'em if they are young and dumb. Women with advanced degrees (esp PhDs) will likely go unmarried. And any young lady who waits past the age of 25 to marry - probably won't.  Most marriages are still at least semi-arranged, with parents and bride-broker go-betweens to find 'suitable' matches (money, social status, etc.) and it can be a bidding war. Divorce rate is skyrocketing - is that a surprise? 

ronlle
ronlle like.author.displayName 1 Like

@canuckophile the women have no one to blame except themselves.  When so many prostitute themselves, the market is set.

WinnieWindland
WinnieWindland

Hmmm. Korean males import ugly-looking and ill-tempered Filipina and Vietnamese and Cambodian and Bangladeshi and Thai and Indian and Chinese prostitutes as their wives with high payment, who are remnants when white males from developed countries have selected other women in respective countries.

ronlle
ronlle like.author.displayName 1 Like

@WinnieWindland I seriously doubt white foreigners are a deciding factor in the Chinese marriage market.  I assume you got passed over by a white guy and are angry for life.

Beersheva
Beersheva

@WinnieWindland I guess Korean prostitutes just aren't good enough.

WinnieWindland
WinnieWindland

@Beersheva

There are many brokers for international marriages in Korea. These brokers and mass media spread false image of the would-be brides as pure and poor and devoted ones. In fact, there were prostitutes. How could country-born pure women be reached marriage brokers? No way. The women who registered to the marriage brokers were able to reach them because they were working at adult businesses. 

ronlle
ronlle

@Beersheva @WinnieWindland   it's economies of scale.  Pay a Chinese prostitute, er, I mean, wife, once vs. paying the Korean over and over.

SarahConfran
SarahConfran like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

It's nice to know I can still be bought as if I am a car.

ronlle
ronlle like.author.displayName 1 Like

@SarahConfran NO, you can still sell yourself, but not like a car.  More like a prostitute.