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Singles Day Special: Chinese Lovers - Prudish? Promiscuous? Pure?

As Beijing’s lonely hearts hope to end their solitude at one of the city’s “Great Singles’ Day” parties, we take the opportunity to examine Chinese attitudes to sex and relationships.

The sleeping arrangements at Beijing universities – where students live in dormitories and accommodation is segregated by sex – are hardly conducive to casual relationships, and, needless to say, the adolescent heroes on Chinese television series aren’t as anxious to shed their virginity as the stars of American Pie.

Aware that there’s more to China than CCTV and university bunk beds, the EO’s English department asked our team of translators and interns - are young Chinese today really so chaste?


Unattached Chinese university students in Jiangsu hold up youtiao, fried dough sticks, to represent the digit one in 11/11. Photo from Xinhua. 


Sex and love

*The age of consent in China is 14; lower than any US state and almost any country in Europe, but not far below the Asia average, which is brought down by the Philippines and Japan, where Asia Times says its legal for twelve-year-olds to procreate.    

*Chinese men and women have been waiting longer to give up singlehood, with the average Shanghai man now waiting until he’s 33, and the average woman getting hitched at 29. 

*Judging by their gift to newly-weds, registry officers at Chaoyang District in Beijing don’t think that local men and women are taking advantage of the extra years to broaden their experience. One recent bride posted an photo of her government gift online, commenting “two packs of condoms, instruction of how to have sex & contraception, and a 李宁 bag LOL!" 

*Guangdong Province’s Deputy Secretary-General Zhang Feng, worries for citizens’ sex lives, telling journalists that "there will not be a happy Guangdong without local residents having happy sex lives." China Daily, which reported his comments, spoke to a psychologist who suggested that the province’s upcoming Sexual Cultural Festival might even reduce crime. "Those who suffer from sexual repression easily break the laws and rules unless they can find a place to let off their sense of frustration," he told the paper. 

*A survey of middle-school students in that province found that almost 5% had been forced to have sex, 20% had been sexually harassed and only 30% said they thought consensual pre-marital sex was fine.   



“Most of my friends in college are eager to find the right person to start a family. Some of them have already found the love of their life[ …] some of them are still looking for true love and they often jokingly complain about their single status”

Yang Ziman, female university student, unmarried


“Have you seen the number of couples outside the school by our office? I don’t think you can say youth today are innocent.”

Wyman, male, EO Online Chinese team, married


“Most Chinese have sex for love, but there are one-night stands too, especially in the big cities of the south, where the economy first opened up.”

Liu Zhao, male, EO Online Chinese team, unmarried


“There are plenty of relationships amongst the youth of china. Anyone walking through Tsinghua Campus after dark will see many couples together – the cliché image is the guy taking the girl on the back of his push bike. There’s a hill on campus nicknamed “lover’s hill”, so-called because it provides the quiet seclusion that dormitories do not. However, in comparison to the west, there seems to be much less of a culture of “hook ups” here. For better or worse, it’s a relationship or nothing.”

Nathan Wakelin-King, male, Australian exchange student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, unmarried 


Singles’ Day

*According to Global Times, it was a group of Nanjing students who kicked off the celebrations on 11/11/93.

*For the second year in a row, online marketplace Taobao marked 11/11 by offering shoppers discounts of as much as 50% – visitors stayed up late to put in their orders before stock sold out, buying 439 million yuan worth of goods by 1 a.m.

*The occasion may yet become an anti-Valentine’s day, if attached man and women heed the advice of bloggers: “Do you want to celebrate Giant Singles Day? Then go ahead and break up, there’s still time!”



“The only reason that the day seems to have become big in China is because society has begun to pay more attention to a "special" group of people that have passed the normal marriage age and remain single. Is this even worth paying attention to?”

Li Meng, female, graduate, unmarried


“While lovers have their Western Valantine's Day and Chinese Qixi Day, 11/11 means China’s singles aren’t left out either. However with all the advertisements of online shops this year, is singles day becoming a celebration of merchants and consumers instead?”

Song Chunling, female, graduate student, unmarried


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