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The trend is also worrying the government. After a whole decade of increases in the national marriage rate, China witnessed its second year of decline in the of newly registered unions inwith a 6. This was accompanied by a rise in the age of marriage, which has increased by about a year and a half in the first ten years of this century. The decline and delay of marriage in China is part of a global trend. Hong Kong and Taiwanfor instance, both have much higher ages of first marriage than mainland China. But in a culture that puts great value on family, parents are alarmed by even the tiniest likelihood that their offspring will remain unmarried and childless.

A woman poses for a wedding picture at the Bund in front of the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai Credit: Getty Images. Many Chinese parents relentlessly try to persuade their children to enter wedlock through much-dreaded interrogations during festive family gatherings. The hope was that this would spur young people to marry and eventually, bear children as soon as possible.

The state is especially worried about the millions of surplus men in China, who were born after the s as a result of gender-selective abortion and are now looking for brides. According to state media, it may be 24 million or 33 million.

But young people follow their own mind. And while romance and coupledom are much endorsed by both men and women in their 20s and 30s, marriage as a legal institution is no longer a must. Growing up with more diverse values than generations, Chinese youth born in the s and s see options beyond the linear life path leading up to the baby carriage. Many prioritise work over partnership - either willingly or with reluctance. Changing lifestyles and modern entertainment are contributing to spouse-free lives Credit: Getty Images.

Others are simply exploring alternative lifestyles ā€” with or without a romantic partner.

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Cohabitation is increasingly commonplace. And thanks to affordable technology, casual sex is also easier to access than ever. For young, professional Chinese urbanites who have access to modern entertainment, a cool, an enriched life can well be spouse-free. Young Chinese women are particularly vocal about the institution of marriage. An advertisement by cosmetic company SK-II, showing young women voicing their protest against parental and social pressure, for instance, went viral in China.

In a country where gender equality has been stallingif not deteriorating, over the past decade, women face enduring discrimination in education and the workplace. There are already many more men than women looking for a partner in China ā€” and that gap looks set to widen Credit: Getty Images.

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The Chinese government relaxed its one-child policy in Octoberallowing all couples to have a second. So the majority of career women said no to the offer out of fear of being further devalued on the job market. Unlike their counterparts in other countries, Chinese women receive no effective protection from the law in case their marriage dissolves. Knowing that bleak career prospects and a non-existent safety net await them, these women have every reason not to trade their career or personal freedom for a wedding. Empowered urban Chinese women have a tough choice to make between intimacy and autonomy - but at least they still have a choice.

Behind them are their rural sisters, who have much less control over their own fates. Deprived of educational and social resources by patriarchal tradition and a capitalist economy, rural women have little bargaining power compared to their urban counterparts against unwanted marriages, inequality between spousesor even violence within or for the sake of marriage.

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Poverty relief programmes or allowing women to have more than one husband polyandry have been suggested as possible solutions to their difficulties. A better way to enhance the lure of marriage could start with the underprivileged in Chinese society. This article originally appeared on The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons licence. To comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, please head over to our Facebook or message us on Twitter.

Share using. Fewer people in China are tying the knot ā€” a trend alarming families and worrying the government. Gender inequality is at the heart of this phenomenon, writes Xuan Li. The state is especially worried about the millions of surplus men in China. A different path But young people follow their own mind.

Chinese youth born see options beyond the linear life path leading up to the baby carriage. Gender disparity Young Chinese women are particularly vocal about the institution of marriage. Poverty relief programmes or allowing women to have more than one husband have been suggested as possible solutions. Around the BBC.

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