With China’s overabundance of shengnu, new business opportunities have come up that target the needs of these ‘leftover women’. Marriage has become a business. SCMP brought to the world’s attention Liang Yali’s 90-day Seek-a-Husband Training Programme, where single women learn how to land and marry an expat. And not just any expat, but successful elites. SCMP introduces the program’s details:
“Her Seek-a-Husband course, which specialises in teaching women how to find ‘elite Westerner’ husbands, launched in Shanghai to widespread acclaim – she boasts that her success rate has stayed at a constant 60 per cent – as well as controversy.
The programme’s target market is women above 35, divorcees and the so-called shengnu or ‘left-behind woman’, although clients are getting younger by the day.”
Liang’s reasoning for matching these women with foreigners is “many Chinese women over the age of 35 experience difficulties finding husbands domestically, but in the west, in many foreigners’ minds, women aged 35 are seen as most attractive.” This rule of attraction is debatable, as the article goes on to mention that the program’s youngest client is only 17 years old. What prompted her to start the business is equally controversial:
“Liang decided to enter the ‘marriage business’ in 2009 after her experiences as a divorced and single mother. She said she had hoped to ‘mass produce’ her happiness to the spurned and desperate…“
Even if happiness could be “mass produced”, obtaining happiness with course materials including how to “select appropriate targets, use charm and to sell their ‘intellect'” makes one wonder how authentic this “happiness” would be. One thing we know for sure is that happiness comes at a high price. SCMP continues:
“She gave examples of success stories such as how a 35-year-old woman from northeastern China learned a bit of English and managed to find a husband who worked as a manager at a large German construction company.
The least expensive one-day course costs 2,800 yuan (HK$3,500), and more advanced modules can be taken for more than 40,000 yuan. There’s also the “unlimited” package, which entitles customers to attend all classes for a cool 100,000 yuan.”
What do the students/clients take away from the program? WantChinaTimes elaborates:
“Liang’s training reportedly features four steps, which cover how to select the best partner, how to keep them interested, how to charm them, and finally the steps towards the wedding.
In explaining the theory behind her training, Liang likens a husband to a pair of well-fitted shoes that cannot be replaced easily once you know the size of your feet. A woman who travels from Hangzhou to Shanghai to attend the class every month, said that ‘The class aims to root out your erroneous concepts about love and marriage.'”
Admittedly, divorcees, single mothers, and single women over 35 years old often find it difficult to get a good candidate for marriage. Prejudices regarding their marital status still prevail in most parts of China. There is also a limited number of available bachelors around the same age, with added competition from younger girls. Even though Liang stresses “If your purpose is to find a rich man, please do not sign up. We are in the business of happiness,” the sustainability of the program remains to be seen.
Image courtesy of Reuters.
Wondering how it is to be a Chinese shengnu? Read a shengnu’s confessions here.
Also, check out our Chaoji Shengnu, a series of comics inspired the shengnu phenomenon.