A rising number of men in China are considering cross-boarder marriage in Vietnam as Vietnamese women are portrayed in a more favorable light than women in China. In addition, an increasing number of Chinese men cannot find a suitable partner in China.
Speed Dating Tour in Thanh Long Hotel
At least one wedding ceremony takes place every week in restaurants near Thanh Long Hotel, Haiphong, a port city in northern Vietnam. Among the newly married couples, brides are young Vietnamese women and the bridegrooms are from China. From the perspectives of some Chinese men who came to Haiphong for speed dating, the idea of marrying a Vietnamese bride is intriguing.
It is the second time Zhao Hai has traveled to Haiphong. Hai is almost 40 years old and single. The purpose for his visit is to get a wife in Vietnam. There are many Chinese men like Hai who visit in tours to Haiphong in hope of marrying Vietnamese women. They come from many places around China, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, etc. Some of them are unable to afford marrying local women in China; some are looking to find a wife with traditional traits, such as sympathy, thriftiness, hardworking and tenderness; some are just seeking for affairs.
In Thanh Long Hotel, the speed dating event is often arranged in two groups, one group of Vietnamese women and one group of Chinese male tourist. Each male visitor will spend about ten minutes talking to an individual Vietnamese girl of his preference in a private guest room at the hotel. Most of the time, conversations during the speed dating event are often direct and short. Conversation topics are mostly about basic information of the two individuals like age, jobs and ideas about married life.
Most of the male visitors are shy and reluctant to ask questions during the dating. The worst part is that the language barrier often prevents both sides from talking freely to each other. In order to better understand each other, the matchmakers often play the role of interpreter despite their limited language capacity.
It is not uncommon to see a last-minute marriage in the Thanh Long Hotel. When both sides are satisfied with each other, it is quite possible that they schedule a quick wedding ceremony in the nearby restaurants. There is always competition involved with speed dating; thus, either side has to make decisions quickly; otherwise, the Chinese man or the Vietnamese woman might lose the chance of marrying the right person. Hai hesitated to marry a Vietnamese girl when he came to Haiphong for the first time. When he made up his mind eventually, the girl had already married someone else. “I won’t let any chance slip through my fingers again,” Hai said in regret when he visited the hotel for the second time.
Some Chinese male visitors thought if they have enough money, they could choose among the bride candidates. However, to their disappointment, social status and financial capability are not the only measurements in the eyes of Vietnamese women who want to marry Chinese men. Demonstration of knowledge, gentility and humor are also important during the speed dating event.
There has not been any official statistics about the number of cross-boarder marriages between Vietnamese and Chinese. But as the organizer of one speed dating tour, Lao Dai (netizen ID) reported, more than 300 people called and applied for the cross-boarder dating tour; Hai was part of the tour.
History of Cross-border Marriage between Vietnamese and Chinese
Cross-boarder marriage between Vietnamese and Chinese has already taken place in villages and towns near the Sino-Vietnam boarder for a long time, because people in these villages and towns belong to the same cultural groups – the Zhuang nationality. As a result, Chinese visitors may feel familiar with the surroundings when they visit Vietnam.
In the past, cross-boarder marriages happened in limited areas near the Sino-Vietnam boarder. In contrast, it has become a promising and burgeoning market place nationwide. However, China is not the first market for Vietnamese brides at the present time. Since the 1970s, as the image of Vietnamese girls was portrayed as being tender, hardworking and pretty, Vietnamese brides began to become popular in South East Asian countries and regions like Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. China has become a new market for the business of Vietnamese brides.
The Cost of Marriage
In Asian culture, marriage is always one of the most important things in an individual’s life. The financial capability of the man has a huge impact on the parent’s decisions whether their daughter could marry him. It is still true nowadays. The richer and more capable a man is, the more likely he can marry someone of his preference, and vise versa.
Bicycles, watches, sewing machines and radios were the essential presents if a man in China wanted to marry someone in the 1970s; in the 1980s, the betrothal gifts became televisions, laundry machines and refrigerators. Nowadays, the betrothal gifts are not limited to these small daily necessities. According to an official statistic, the cost in China’s big cities soared up and the betrothal gifts have become unaffordable for most city dwellers whose average annual income is only 1,740 USD.
In Beijing, the average cost for a marriage is 106,000 RMB (about 15,529 USD); in Shanghai, the number is 140,000 RMB (about 20,510 USD); in other big cities, the cost is also around 50,000 RMB (about 7,325 USD). In contrast, the cost of marrying a Vietnamese bride is much less than 7,325 USD. Even migrant workers who earn less than 2,000 RMB (about 293 USD) a month are able to afford marriage.
Gender Imbalance in Vietnam and China
Gender imbalance is another key reason driving the trend of cross-boarder marriage between the two countries. Interestingly enough, the gender imbalance trends in the two countries are complementary.
There is a higher female population in Vietnam. It is estimated, for every five females, there are only two or three males in the country. Due to this big imbalance, the social status of female in Vietnam is often inferior, which makes many girls in Vietnam shift their attention to places outside the country for better marriages.
The gender rate situation in China is just the opposite. The male-to-female rate among newly-born babies has already exceeded the warning line (105 to 100). According to the American media, for every 122 male infants in China, there are only 100 female babies. As a result, among every six males in the future, at least one male cannot find a wife. Rocketing gender imbalance has already resulted in fierce competition in China’s marriage market: men have to demonstrate more capability to compete over other males. It does not only take place in urban areas but also in rural areas. Therefore, as Vietnamese brides became popular in neighbor Asian countries and regions, Chinese males consider it a good opportunity to have an affordable and happy marriage.
Modern Chinese Wives versus Traditional Vietnamese Wives
“I dated some Chinese girls,” Lao Qin recalled when he joined the speed dating tour to Haiphong. “They seldom washed my clothes nor cooked as wives of elder generations in China, because most of them have jobs and their own careers. They often asked me to share the housework.”
Most men like Lao Qin who are around 40 years old still look forward to traditional marriage life: wives take full responsibility of housework while husbands work outside and earn money for the household. However, this situation is no longer the norm in modern China. More and more Chinese women of younger generations receive higher education and develop their own careers. As they gain more social importance and contribute to productivity, their social status and sense of gender equality rise accordingly. This trend makes many Chinese men like Zhao Hai and Lao Qin, who are in their mid thirty or mid forties, feel uncomfortable.
In addition, compared with Vietnamese women, many Chinese women of young generations are more material oriented and pragmatic. They ask for expensive betrothal gifts like houses, cars and cash gifts, which upset their pursuers.
As Zhao Hai compared, Vietnamese girls won’t place much pressure on their husbands. They won’t demand their husbands to earn more money. What’s more, since it is almost impossible for these girls to go back home in Vietnam, they will be more submissive and loyal to their Chinese husbands. In short, this provides a sense of superiority and dignity for the Chinese husbands.
When these husbands look at the other side of cross-boarder marriage between Chinese and Vietnamese, however, there are lots of problems concerned. An online survey of Vietnamese brides, over 25 percent of the respondents thought marrying Vietnamese women and moving to China might lead to new problems.
As discussed earlier, the language barrier is the key problem that weakens the argument of seeking true love. After all, it seems impossible to take care of a marriage if the couple fails to communicate with each other properly and efficiently. Without matchmakers’ help, most dating couples have to look up dictionaries each time when they have conversations.
Due to limited regulations and laws to identify status of immigrant brides in China, many Vietnamese brides do not have legal social status in China. Complicated application procedures also prevent cross-boarder marriage couples from applying legal identification. In Xiang City, a boarder city in Guangxi Province of China, there has not been any records for such an application; but it is well-known to all in the city that many residents in the city have Vietnamese wives.
As there are many legal escapes for immigrant marriage in China, individuals who are looking for married life are exposed to more risks. Some businessmen in China take it as an opportunity to make money with no ethical and legal restraints. Therefore, there are many marriage service agencies provide poor or even illegal services, such as women trafficking and prostitution.
In Wuzhou, a city in Jiangxi Province of China, 20 Vietnamese brides were discovered by the local police that they cheated their “bridegrooms” out of money and betrothal gifts. Since there has not been a complete record system for these immigrant brides from the government side, it seems to be impossible to bring them to justice.