By: Gerald Ma
My Odds on Finding a China Wife
efore I left for China, more than one person had half-jokingly commented that perhaps I would find a wife in the mainland, settle and not return home.
Come to think of it though, in a land of 1.3 billion people and the birthplace of such beauties as Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, perhaps there was hope and a grain of truth in the optimistic musings of my friends. Maybe indeed the thought of meeting the mythical China bride of expat fantasy was not a distant impossibility; she of stunning beauty, silky long black hair and unending slender limb, demure, gentle, loyal and filial, and a lioness in the bedroom to boot. I threw out this hypothesis to my management consultant friend in Shanghai, him with that indefinable job demanding unfathomable amounts of brainpower ad analysis, who proceeded to do a rough estimate on the number of possible compatible partners in this huge land I was presently in. Based on a few simple criteria of mine (after all, a man must have some standards) he concluded that there were probably 100 eligible ladies for me in every Chinese city. However, let’s look a bit more closely at the statistics:
First things first, the easier demographic data. Being fully heterosexual, probably not wanting to be labelled a paedophile and eventually wanting to have children, would put a swift cull through the masses.
Thus, based on a 50:50 split and a 23% proportion of females aged 20-35, out of the 650 million ladies in China, 149.5 million would be in the right age range.
Secondly, as any 50 year old married couple would tell you, basic primal attraction is an important pre-requisite of any long-term and healthy relationship; so while my future wife need not be smoking hot along Megan Fox lines (or her Chinese equivalent) she at least has to be physically attractive to me. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As the empirical part of my study might show, looking around as I wander the streets of Shanghai, or strolling through the townships of Hangzhou I observed that roughly 1 out of every 15 females I pass I might find attractive enough to consider. So taking this 6.67% factor into consideration, that still leaves a healthy 9.97 million possibilities.
Next up, and as my best friend's wife would say is most important, ‘She must love God’. The tough cookie of spiritual compatibility rears its head. I’ve learnt that Christianity has indeed grown in the mainland over these past two decades, according to estimates, the number of believers numbers has grown to around 40 million, or 3.3% of the population. Assuming that the believers here are of the passionate, God-fearing, fearless for the gospel breed (and that is being optimistic), that would leave me with 329,010 eligible sisters. Still hope it seems but the pool is indeed shrinking.
Good communication; again the bedrock of a strong marriage, and the failure to communicate the reason of many breakdowns in relationship. My Mandarin being basic conversational at best, the ability to communicate in a common language is pretty important I would say, which brings us to statistics on English proficiency. English I have learnt is taught nationwide as a second language, so officially there are 300 million learners of the language. In reality though, and various attempts to hold a conversation have proven to be the case (again field research), the actual number of proper English speakers is much lower, to the tune of numbering 10 million if Wikipedia statistics are to be believed. Let’s say I am not looking for total fluency, and I manage to improve my language in the next few years, that would probably mean around 10% of people I meet could have some decent communication with. 10% of the Christian ladies now leave us with 32,901 possibilities.
Out of these possibilities, along the lines of compatibility, I think it would not be too much to ask for a partner with a basic education level, just basic I stress, am not asking for any PhD holders or even she who has a degree. I’m not even hoping for someone I could even discuss and debate topics of politics, society and philosophy to an intellectual level. Well, according to the Chinese census in 2007, 11.1% of the population have completed their secondary school diploma, applying this filter to our constantly diminishing pool leaves us with 3620 likely ladies.
Where does this leave us then? Well, to put things in perspective, there are officially 661 cities in China, meaning that there are 5.47 potentially compatible partners in each city, at the most 6 educated girls per city who share my beliefs, and who I could have a decent conversation with. And already I am not even considering personality type, shared interests or even if any of these potential brides are already attached and married. At the same time, there is one little but not inconsequential detail which I have neglected.
As my Uncle Jim, a veteran of mainland romances, astutely pointed out,
‘When you finally find this one in a billion girl you must also make her criteria, which might not be any less demanding than yours, not to mention those of her family after that.’
Ahhh I forget compatibility is a mutual thing. So, the next time someone muses on me finding the perfect wife in China, I will politely smile, thank them for their optimism and reply that unfortunately the statistics are sadly much against the prospect, in fact comparable to striking the grand prize at the Shanghai lottery.
So until Zhang Ziyi knocks on that door with her marriage proposal, let’s not get our hopes up.BW