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Matchmaking is a long-standing cultural practice in China.
When Zhou’s parents played matchmaker for her, she felt that if she didn’t like the guys chosen by her parents, it would lead to arguments where her parents blamed her for being “too picky.” Dating apps in China instead empower the individual where life is catching up with the law.
Despite these changes, Chinese parents still have great influence in their children’s romantic lives.
The older generation often takes responsibility for arranging blind dates for young adults, but only when they are old enough to be married.
In addition to these laws, China’s Open Door Policy of 1978, which began to expose Chinese to outside cultural influences, further destabilized traditional customs.
More young Chinese took the initiative, many driven by romantic love, to seek potential spouses in their circles through school, work, social gatherings or mutual friends.
“We’re looking for people who are more relationship-driven,” says Liu.
“We are matching for long-term relationships.” While dating apps and sites have made it easier for users to find a large number of highly-targeted matches and thus widening the dating pool for Chinese singles, negative effects have also arisen.
Sick of unsuccessful blind dates set up by her parents and unable to stand the social scrutiny of meeting potential dates at bars in her city, Zhou registered on Jiayuan, a Chinese dating website.
The site is typically used by young singles between 24 and 35 and is commonly viewed as a tool for seeking long-term relationships and possibly marriage.
Jiayuan and Baihe, China’s most popular dating sites, had around 126 million and 85 million registered users in 2015 respectively (Tinder had about 50 million active users in 2014).
In contrast to a slew of popular dating apps in the West that are commonly associated with a casual “hook-up” dating culture, Chinese online dating services are typically used by those in search of lasting connections and relationships — although this gradually may be changing.
Chinese online dating services have grown increasingly popular as they draw on traditional Chinese dating values such as material security and marriage-focused relationships, and expand connections beyond the screen with offline events and relationship counseling services.