Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 18th 2013 Contents China s communists attacked
many bourgeois institutions after
taking power in 1949, but marriage
was not one of them. On the con-
trary, they enacted a marriage law
in 1950, four years before they
introduced a constitution.
The pressure to marry remains
heavy in today s China, where
almost 80 per cent of adults have
tied the knot at some point, com-
pared with only 68 per cent in
America. Today, however, in con-
trast to the 1950s, marriage is
bound up with another bourgeois
In China mortgages often pre-
cede marriages. According to pop-
ular belief, if a man and his family
cannot buy property, he will strug-
gle to find a bride. In choosing a
husband, three-quarters of women
consider his ability to provide a
home, according to a recent survey
of young people in China s coastal
cities by Horizon China, a Beijing-
based market-research firm. Even
if a woman herself dismisses this
criterion, her family and friends,
not to mention the country s real
estate agents, will not let her forget
"Naked marriages," as property-
less ones are known, are endorsed
by increasing numbers of young
people. As they get older, though,
their attitudes may regress faster
than society s progress.
One 28-year-old Beijing woman
married her husband after falling
in love with him at college. Today
her perspective has changed.
"If you introduced a man to me
now, and he couldn t afford a
home, I wouldn t marry him," she
says. "I need to be more realistic.
I m not a 20-year-old girl."
Some economists argue that
competition for brides in China s
"marriage market: helps explain
the punishingly high prices in its
property market. Houses are least
affordable in those parts of China
where men most outnumber
women, argue Shang-jin Wei of
Columbia University in New York,
Xiaobo Zhang of the International
JULY 2013 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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In China, married
to the mortgage
Food Policy Research Institute in Wash-
ington and Yin Liu of Tsinghua Uni-
versity in Beijing.
Men, and their families, splurge on
property to improve their position in
the marriage race, but that merely forces
other men to spend more in response.
Unmarried men are locked in a Dar-
winian struggle, the economists argue.
Overpriced homes are like the extrav-
agant plumage of a peacock, an eye-
catching encumbrance that only the
most resourceful males can put on dis-
The burden of home-buying thus falls
heavily on unmarried men. It is no longer
confined to them, however. Women and
their families now contribute to their
partner s home purchases in 70 percent
of cases, according to Horizon China s
research. They help out both because
they must---couples have to pool their
resources to afford coastal China s pricey
homes---and because they can. Young
women are earning more and receiving
more help from their parents, for whom
they are often now the only child.
Although most women now con-
tribute to the purchase of the home,
only 30 per cent of married women add
their name to the title certificate, accord-
ing to Horizon China s research. Leta
Hong Fincher, a sociologist at Tsinghua
University, worries that "many Chinese
women are shut out of what may be
the biggest accumulation of residential
wealth in history."
More women are trying to add their
name to this wealth. Of those married
after 2006, 37 percent have succeeded.
Their efforts gained new urgency in 2011
when the Supreme Court clarified
divorce rules: Each party, it said, would
keep the property registered in his or
her name, after each was compensated
for any contributions to the mortgage.
Joint registration of property faces
bureaucratic and social obstacles, how-
ever. One woman interviewed by Hong
Fincher contributed heavily to the down
payment on a home and insisted on reg-
istering it in both names. Her boyfriend s
mother begged her to drop her demand,
though, pointing out that the bride-to-
be out-earned him and was more likely
to leave him than vice versa. Joint own-
ership would be a further blow to his
In principle the law entitles a divorced
wife to compensation for her mortgage
contributions, even if the family home
was not registered in her name. Women
do not always document their home
payments, however, and, even if they
pay nothing toward a mortgage, they
still may pay a great deal toward other
household expenses, Hong Fincher points
out. In many cases the man can afford
the mortgage only because the woman
takes care of the furnishings and many
"Home ownership defines masculin-
ity,: Hong Fincher says.
Often a couple s finances are arranged
so that the husband can take all the
pride of owning the home, she says,
even if, in reality, his wife is jointly sup-
porting the household. A dutiful wife
may feel obliged to bolster his pretense.
In China macho posturing is another
bubble that has yet to burst.
@2013 Economist Newspaper Ltd.
(Distributed by the New York Times
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