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Changes in marriage brought by Tianjin's 1st generation of couples

TIANJIN, Nov. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Twenty-five years ago, some 6.1 million new-born children became the first group to receive certificates for having single-child families under China's policyof birth control.

Twenty-five years later, those children, brought up as the apples of their parents' eyes, are bringing great changes to the traditional marriage concept and family mode of China.

Born in 1979, Li Qiming doesn't feel anxious to marry his girlfriend, although they have been together for three years.

"I began to work just one year ago. As our experiences in both life and society are so little, we think it will be very unstable to get married too early," Li said.

"Twenty-eight may be a better age for marriage," he said.

Like Li, many young people are choosing late marriages, although getting marriage at 24 was deemed normal in the past.

Having worked in a telecommunication company for four years, XuChen has had a stable career and a considerable savings. Despite this, he still thinks getting married requires more time.

"Maybe when I have a saving of 300,000 yuan (some 36,300 US dollars), my wedding day will come," said Xu.

In today's China, getting married at the age of 24 or earlier seems odd too for most young people.

The young generation brought up in single-child families tend to be precocious in sex while quite cautious in marriage, said Yuan Xin, associate professor in psychology of Nankai University of north China's Tianjin municipality.

"Young people brought up in only-child families tend to be moreself-centered, with less concern for others and with poor ability to take care of themselves and others well, which contradicts to the traditional family mode based on mutual respect and care," acknowledged Yuan.

The high value they place on freedom makes the young generationregard marriage as a shackle to some extent, Yuan said. More importantly, with the growth of China's economy, the cost of establishing a family has been rising, contributing to delayed marriages, he said.

A survey made in Tianjin shows that the average cost for a new couple to get married is about 191,100 yuan (some 23,100 US dollars), some 50 times of that in 1978. The money mainly goes toward purchasing an apartment, household appliances and furnitureand the wedding itself.

Apartments cost as much 110,900 yuan (13,410 US dollars), and the average cost of purchasing household electric appliances and holding a wedding are 20,100 yuan (2430 US dollars) and 9,300 yuan(1,125 US dollars) respectively.

While some young people choose a late marriage, others still get married at an early age.

Wang Yang, a junior student with the Tianjin Teachers' University, held her wedding in a four-star hotel in downtown Tianjin during the week-long May Day holiday, which over 20 classmates and most of her friends and relatives were invited to attend.

At the age of 23, the girl is one of the few full-time studentsin China ever to host such a wedding and the first one in Tianjin.

Even last year, college students getting married would be ordered to leave school according to the code for college studentsissued by the Ministry of Education in the 1990's. But the new regulation on registering for marriage taking effect from Oct. 1, 2003 removes the ban on students still on campus.

According to the new regulation, an adult male over 22 and female over 20 will be able to marry each other legally if only providing their ID cards and residence files and signing a statement that they are single and not relatives forbidden to get married by laws.

"I didn't mean to draw anyone's attention," said Wang to the nearly 20 media who reported her unusual wedding. "I just felt a student has the right to celebrate the most exciting occasion in her life like anyone else."

The removal of the ban on students' getting married on campus isof more symbolic significance than practical meaning, of more value in law than in the real needs, said Wang Jie, a researcher with the Tianjin academy of social sciences.

"Freedom of marriage is a crucial part of human rights. Wang Yang's decision to get married is her own choice, which is legal, rational and reasonable. So long as the couple can deal with the relationship between life and study well, they are due to receive more comprehension," said Wang.

To the new generation brought up in single-child families, marriage is just a choice of life style. But except for love and happiness in marriage, what they get in marriage also includes troubles most of them have not conceived of.

Having been married for over one year, Mrs. Zhang and her husband, both from single-child families, still see daily cooking a real headache.

Working in China Unicom in Tianjin, Zhang said although marriage made her shake off the fetters of parents, it also brought her many duties such as housework.

Housework has become a factor affecting the harmony in familiesmade up of young people from single-child families.

A survey of 100 new couples from single-child families in Tianjin shows that 20 percent of them hire workers to do housework.Eighty percent eat free meals at their parents' homes instead of making dinner themselves, and 30 percent have their laundry done in parents' home. Half have had conflicts because of housework.

Moreover, couples from single-child families are troubled by such problems as fostering kids and supporting old people.

Engaged in career development and with less experiences in caring for babies, those couples often choose to consign their kids to social educational institutions. And the duties to supportfour parents of both sides have become a big burden for them, which also led to loneliness and less care of the old people.

"Great changes have taken place to the traditional Chinese value system which took family as the core. Without the fetters oftraditional ethical codes and blood relationship from big families,those new families are more like some loose unions, easy to form and easy to break," said Pan Yunkang, director of the Institution of Sociology of the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences.

In traditional China, family, as the simplest and most essential form of marriage, was given top emphasis. While the quality of the marriage, that is whether the couple were happy or not, tended to be neglected. Even one's work unit or colleagues could have a saying in one's marriage. In such circumstances, families often became a cage for people.

Now more importance is being given to the real content of marriage rather than to its outer form by new generation brought up in single-child families. They boast more freedom in saying "no" to unhappy marriages.

China has seen a soaring divorce rate in recent years. In Tianjin more than 6,000 couples registered to divorce in 2002, with over 10 percent having been married for less than one year.

"More attention being paid to the quality of marriage signifiesa progress in China's family concept, thanks to the advancement made both in physical and ethical culture during China's reform and opening to the outside world in the past 25 years," Pan said.

However, the debasement of the solemnness of marriage and more tolerance to cohabitation and non-marital relationships of the young generation brought up in single-child families have also brought more uncertainty and instability to families, which tend to result in some kind of nihilism in life and love, he said. Enditem

  Xinhuanet  2004-11-17 16:51
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