A revealing look at some of the women who are changing the way China operates.
For thousands of years, the woman’s role in China was to marry young and produce and raise offspring. In today’s China, that tradition remains deeply embedded, so much so that women find themselves torn between two aspects of their culture: they want to honor their heritage and please their parents by marrying and giving them grandchildren while also seeking a higher education, a well-paying job, and, ultimately, independence. Using numerous interviews and solid research, Economist Cuba correspondent Lake, who used to be based in Beijing, provides a timely, behind-the-scenes look at several women who are currently straddling the marriage/nonmarriage line, women who have reached their 30s and are therefore “leftover”—i.e., beyond a suitable age for marriage and childbearing. The author studies the role of mistresses in Chinese culture and the way foreigners and foreign educations have both helped and hindered Chinese women. She also examines the extreme effect the one-child policy had on the country; during a 30-plus–year period, millions of female fetuses were aborted, leaving fewer women available for possible marriage. Furthermore, one-child girls were pushed to succeed as if they were sons, a situation that has created tension when these women do succeed. Throughout the narrative, the author explores themes of marriage and traditions and the challenges these new, educated, sophisticated Chinese women face as they search for possible mates at work, on dating sites, and through blind dates arranged by their parents. Lake expertly explains how many Chinese men don’t want wives who are well-educated and high-achieving, making it even more difficult for successful women to find life partners.
A solid debut book providing intriguing insights into the current state of China’s sociocultural system.