• Online dating fast becoming commonplace
  • Social attitudes about remarriage are changing in China, and society is more supportive of older people remarrying
  • Unlike in the past, China’s elderly and middle-aged singles are turning to modern technology

Over two decades after his divorce, Wang Rulin, 62, decided it was time to give marriage another chance.

It only took two weeks for the retiree, a former auxiliary police officer from Jiangsu province in eastern China, to find someone he believed could be a suitable partner.

“We’ve been chatting happily online and are seeing each other after the Lunar New Year. She is nine years younger than me and has a good pension scheme. Of course, she is healthy,” he said.

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Chinese dating shows for middle-aged and elderly people are popular in China. Photo: Handout © Provided by South China Morning Post Chinese dating shows for middle-aged and elderly people are popular in China. Photo: Handout

Wang did not find his potential match through a blind date at a public park, the most common traditional marriage market throughout China. Instead, he copied what the younger generations do for dating these days: he took to the internet.

Wang, who lives alone now because his grown son moved to a different city, found a digital matchmaker on the live-streaming app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

Like Wang, an increasing number of ageing singles in China are turning to social media or television shows to look for someone with whom to spend the rest of their lives.

Richer, healthier and better-educated than their parents’ generation, these lonely seniors are searching for partners in more open ways as Chinese attitudes towards elderly love and sex transforms.

Wang found his prospective girlfriend via an account called Jiangxin Dates on Douyin, which has over 384,000 followers.

Specifically targeting the elderly, the digital matchmaker connects people in a fan club. For the more adventurous types, the account allows people to promote themselves to everyone watching a nightly one-hour live stream.

The shows are popular in part because of the humorous commentary from the guests. Photo: Handout © Provided by South China Morning Post The shows are popular in part because of the humorous commentary from the guests. Photo: Handout

Jiangxin Dates also makes content out of the dates of some of its followers, with the most popular video clip attracting over 1 million views.

Television dating shows targeting at middle-aged and older people have also gained popularity in the past year. Major hits include programmes such as Love’s Choice by Liaoning TV and Serendipity Will Not Come Too Late by Jilin TV.

The shows have attracted viewers because the guests are candid and straightforward, often making sharp and humorous comments.

“At this stage of life, we know what we want, and we would rather express it more directly and sincerely to avoid misunderstandings,” said Wang.

Behind the booming elderly dating services is the rapidly growing number of seniors in China. According to the country’s seventh national population census conducted in 2020, 19 per cent of the population is above the age of 60. In 2010, that number was 13.3 per cent.

Furthermore, the overall divorce rate has climbed in China over the past decades, from 0.44 divorces per 1,000 people in 1985 to over 3 per 1,000 people in 2020.

The idea of older singles pursuing romance again is receiving support from the public, especially from their children, said Liu Zongshan, a matchmaker from Feicheng, Shandong province in eastern China, said.

“Society is more tolerant now, and people are more likely to be supportive, instead of mocking or obstructing an old person’s attempt to look for a partner as they might have in the past,” he said.

Chinese marriage markets may be going out of style with the growth of the internet. Photo: EPA-EFE © Provided by South China Morning Post Chinese marriage markets may be going out of style with the growth of the internet. Photo: EPA-EFE

Liu said many young people used to object to their parents’ remarrying because they worried they would receive less inheritance. But now, as more families get richer, they have less concern in this regard.

“Since more young people live separately after getting married, they want their parents to remarry so they can have someone to look after them and have an emotional connection with,” he added.

Wang’s family feels much the same about it.

Wang, who divorced his ex-wife 23 years ago, was a single father for much of his son’s childhood and never seriously entered any romantic relationship. He said he could not find a woman that both he and his son liked.

“Now he has started his own family and bought his own home in Shanghai, he is totally supportive of me remarrying, so I needn’t worry whether she and he can get along,” he said.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.Scmp.Com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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