One of the biggest headlines recently has been the stock market crash in China. What is less commonly known about the country, however, is something that has been going on for much longer: a steep and steady decline in matrimony. A government report showed that China’s divorce rate reached 3.6 million cases in 2014 – more than double the number the decade prior. London may be the divorce capital of the world but as social norms and cross-border influences progressed in the last few years, Asian and Western cultures have become similar in more ways than one.
When a famous Chinese performance artist who calls himself “Brother Nut” managed to convince an unacquainted man and woman to marry and then divorce only days later – as what seems like a controversial means of social commentary – it is difficult not to question what else besides the typical causes of separation are responsible for the national phenomenon. For some context we know that family life there has always been universally unorthodox – the one-child policy was replaced by a two-child policy just this year. But let us take a look at the more overlooked factors that account for the status quo.
1) Social media is becoming the preferred method of interaction
It seems that while the internet can help us find a new partner, it can also damage relationships. Look at the recent Ashley Madison scandal: it’s easy to see how social media can be used to connect with an old flame or find someone to conduct an extramarital affair with. It is also thought that an over-reliance on social media can lead to problems communicating “offline” and ultimately the breakdown of family and romantic relationships.
2) A wave of independent-mindedness alongside open-door policies
After drastic shifts in the political regime between old and new China, the children of the 80s and 90s grew up into better educated, more self-reliant and more ambitious individuals.Marriages are no longer instantly associated with traditional objectives of material security and economic prosperity. Couples are more enlightened about non-monetary emotional benefits they expect.
3) Procedural efficiency
As long as both parties agree on all terms, China is now established as one of the easiest and cheapest places in the world to pursue a divorce. Perhaps the characteristically reserved nature of the Chinese translates into less tense divorce settlements, where months and years’ worth of meetings and discussions are avoided.
Could the UK learn from China? Certainly there are increasing calls to make divorce procedurally quicker and easier. It remains to be seen whether this type of reform will be carried out and what the effect on the divorce rate here at home will be.