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Its emphasis on finding partners for men was a testament to China’s unbalanced sex ratio, caused by a combination of China’s one-child policy and advances in ultrasound technology in the 1980s that allowed pregnant women to abort millions of baby girls. Male candidates introduced themselves and their family background, listed their criteria for a spouse, and answered a few questions from the host.
It was essentially a singles ad broadcast before audience members, who, if interested, could contact the candidate for a date.
At the same time, traditional courtship and marriage rituals were evaporating.
For example, in 1970, only 1.8% of couples lived together before marriage. Meanwhile, divorces in China rose from 170,449 couples in 1978 to 3.5 million in 2013, while marriages with foreigners increased from fewer than 8,500 couples in 1979 to more than 49,000 couples in 2010.
Other pointed retorts include “I won’t consider you if your monthly salary is under RMB 200,000” (,333) and “If you come from the countryside, you can forget about it.”Traditionalists have argued that the shows reflect the pervasive materialism, narcissism, and discrimination against the poor among China’s younger generations.
By the late 2000s, dating shows needed to continue to evolve in order to compete with other programs.
For single people, they’re a platform for seeking potential spouses; for fans, they’re the subject of gossip and dissection; for the cultural elites, they’re a topic for derision; and for the government, they’re a target for surveillance.
Compared with western cultures, China has traditionally had a vastly different value system toward marriages and family.
In many ways, dating shows became a powerful way to facilitate these changes.
By looking at the development of Chinese television dating shows, we can see how love and marriage changed from a ritualized system mired in the past to the liberated, western-style version we see today.
But China’s 1978 Open Door Policy, which transitioned the country from a rigid, centrally-planned economy to a global, market-based economy, exposed the Chinese people to an array of outside cultural influences.