Going solo: China’s ‘singles economy’ and the date-renting industry
China has witnessed a rising number of singles in recent years, including the unmarried, divorced and widowed. The number of people who live alone is also on the rise, especially in cosmopolitan cities and coastal areas. This rising single population gave rise to an emerging ‘singles economy’ (danshen jingji), marked by growing demand for mini-apartments for solo dwellers, appliances for one-person households, food delivery services tailored to ‘singletons’, tour packages for single men and women, companion pets, and boyfriend and girlfriend-renting services.
I will unpack China’s growing ‘singles economy’ through a case study of the date-renting industry, which has become a thriving part of the Chinese economy. Through analysis of various date-renting websites and drawing on the theories that focused on the intersection of romance/emotions and the market/capitalism, I identify the logic of the date-renting industry and the gendered strategic presentation of ‘date-traders’ online. I argue that the boundary between emotions and capitalism has become increasingly blurred as these two seemingly opposing forces are converging, constituting a unique phenomenon in China’s singles economy. This manifests as an economically moulded dating culture intertwined with new, intricate social and personal relations – a by-product of China’s demographic shifts and rapidly growing market economy.
Pan Wang is Senior Lecturer in Chinese and Asian Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney. She is author of Love and Marriage in Globalizing China (2015, Routledge). She currently serves as Convenor of Chinese studies, and teaches and researches in gender, love and marriage in China and Chinese media and communication. Her latest publications include “The Cultural Economy of Xiangqin: an analysis of PRC dating shows, date-renting, and matchmaking apps” (2022) and Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies and “Love during the Cultural Revolution: Evidence from a couple’s private letters 1968-1977” (2022), The History of the Family.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
ONLINE EVENT. Please register to receive Zoom link prior to seminar.
Dates & timesThursday, 9 March 2023 4.00pm - 5.30pm