China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs declared that over four million couples divorced in 2018, up 2% from the same period last year. China’s divorce rate has been steadily rising over the past ten years and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. During and after China’s coronavirus quarantine period, Global Times reported that marriage registration offices in Xi’an, the capital of a Northwestern Province in China, received a spike in divorce appointments. One reason for this trend could be that couples have more conflicts during the epidemic control period, as they have to stay together all the time.[Source: Baidu Index “Divorce and Marriage search trends in China”] [Data Source: China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs “Divorce rate in China from 2008 to 2018”]
Reasons why couples divorce in China
Initial pressure to marry
Divorce is a complicated social phenomenon and affected and restrained by many factors such as career plans, income, preferences, habits, physical situations. Many young Chinese people receive pressure from their parents and society to marry before the age of 30. Additionally, both women and men are educated at a higher rate than ever before, creating a world of opportunity for themselves, yet facing expectations to marry young and have a family. Women may be pressured into marrying early, knowing that they will be considered ‘leftover women’ by society if they are single after 30. As a result, many marriages were formed under pressure and end in divorce.
Another reason for divorce stems from economic issues. Although women are becoming closer to men in the career playing field, the expectations for men to take their share in childcare and housework have not changes as quickly. This results in less communication and a breakdown in relationships between couples.
Simplification of registration
Third is the simplification of divorce registration in China. These simplified divorce laws also state that whoever purchased the home of the couple gains sole ownership of the property. Thus, many couples who normally would be afraid of losing half of their property, no longer have to worry. Due to the simplicity of the Chinese divorce process, more Chinese couples are beginning to file for divorce.
Fourth, divorces in China are also a way to take advantage of a loophole in Chinese laws. In 2016, news broke that people were happily divorcing in Shanghai for more favorable deposit rates on property purchases. In a similar way, Chinese parents are now beginning to separate to get their children into better schools. By divorcing, one of the parents is legally allowed to switch their place of residence and place their children in a school outside of their original residential district.
Different attitudes toward divorce in China: suffering vs. freedom
In Zhihu, a topic named “what kind of experience is divorce?” gives rise to 11 thousand followings, 22 million views and thousands of comments talking about their experiences when going through a divorce in China. Some people treat divorce as relief, but there are still many ones who are struggling.
Divorce makes life much harder for some
In China, some couples still feel pain after divorce, since they think divorce increases their both physical and spiritual burden. First, many divorced people choose to divorce because they experienced abuse, derailment or suffered in other forms. Even after the divorce, they are still unable to let go of the past. Second, the cost of divorce leads to a heavy financial burden. Children growing up with a single parent will be faced with much more psychological and emotional problems than their peers who grow up in normal families. If so, parents will pay more in the future to treat children’s psychological and mental problems. Meanwhile, the cost involved in the assignment of property. Property may suffer a loss during the process of assignment because of the dispute. These factors are also why some couples choose not to divorce.
Divorced people in China gradually look for new lives
There are also numerous couples notice that divorce is not the end of life, and they still have the power to pursue happiness. In The Couple is not the Same Birds, a documentation won the thirteenth FIRST Youth Film Exhibition nomination, the director compares his divorced parents’ lives between 18 years ago and now. The couple got divorced because of interminable disputes. They felt sad for their past happiness and their reasonless decision to their marriage, but gradually understood that divorce made them get rid of further distress.[Source: Weibo@FIRST Youth Movie Exhibition “The Couple is not the Same Birds”]
Children living in divorced families in China
Divorce may relieve couples, but children are usually the worst victims. Zhihu’s comments show that plenty of children are affected by their parents’ divorce in China. They feel their need is ignored and they are abandoned. Especially some other children would make fun of them and gossip relatives may also tease them. Tan, the son of the couple in The Couple is not the Same Birds, expressed his hate to parents. In the court, he was asked who he wanted to follow and he felt despair. After grown-up, he got out of the family shadow, but held the view that he did not believe in love anymore.
In contrast, there are also children live happily after parents’ divorce in China. Rather than bear parents’ disputes, those children prefer to grow up in a more peaceful environment. A harmonious family is beneficial to children’s physical and mental development. Qilin Guo, a famous crosstalk actor’s son, appreciates his stepmother’s care. His parents divorced due to a broken relationship, but his stepmother makes him feel the warmth of home and led him to become an excellent actor.[Source: Weibo “Happy Birthday to You, Mom”]
Divorced consumers in China
Now, in China, divorce is no longer regarded as taboo. Increasingly more people think divorce is often an appropriate decision. Thus, more attention is accumulated in using divorce as a bridge to promote various industries. More companies gradually make their products fit for the topic of divorce and develop the market for divorced people.
General consumption portraits of divorced people in China[Source: Zhihu “After divorce, do you live well?”]
Dating apps help divorced people pursue new happiness
Dating applications are useful tools to help divorced people to chase new happiness. Zhenai.com is such a platform with the official website and real stores. It allows users to target people based on certain criteria. One of these criteria is ‘divorced’, making it so divorced people can easily find other divorcees. .[Source: Zhenai.com “Divorced male criteria on dating platform”]
Connect advertisements with the topic of divorce
Advertising is another helpful way to combine products with the topic of divorce to attract customers. In 2014, Rejoice launched a mini film talking about a couple’s journey from meeting to divorce, triggering over 40 million views in just four weeks; and it promoted a hashtag “#IBelieveInLoveAgain” to call for keeping love alive. Terence Lam, P&G Greater China hair care marketing general manager, said “We believe that no matter how complicated relationships can be, there is always a way to smooth things out. This is a position worth taking for our brand, to have a strong point of view on this cultural phenomenon”. Divorced people can feel empathy with advertisements and link themselves to the products and the brands, which stimulate the sales of products.[Source: iqiyi “Hugs”]
A dissolving taboo
In China, divorce is in an increasing trend for various reasons related to economic, legal, and psychological factors. People also hold different views to divorce that divorce can bring freedom and also pain. Meanwhile, more companies started to design services catering to divorced consumers and connect their products with the topic of the divorce.
Author: April Peng