For months they cooked in the same kitchen at college in London,
each of them preparing their own meal, trying not to make it too
obvious that something else was brewing.
It was a love match in the making. The ingredients: a Chinese
girl named Cao Wei and a French boy called Patrick Rioual.
Casual glances and occasional chitchat soon turned in to a
The rest is history, and 10 years on, happily married and living
in Beijing, the couple have a 2-year-old son.
"Yes. He has big eyes and a large nose," said Cao, 38, a
self-employed jewelry dealer. "But he is not foreign to me. He is
my husband, my family."
Cao and Rioual are among a growing number of mixed couples in
China, and "a natural social phenomena", said Xu Anqi, a
sociologist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Last year, 68,000 mixed couples registered for marriage, 4,000
more than in 2005.
Nationwide, 9.45 million couples tied the knot, an increase of
1.21 million, according to statistics from the Ministry of Civil
"Frequent migration across borders, driven by the country's
rapid economic growth, is a major reason behind the growing number
of mixed marriages," Xu said.
"Also, foreigners who are traveling to or are working in China
are mostly at the typical age to marry."
But the marriage rate is not the only thing changing. So are
attitudes about interracial partnerships.
One is the common misconception about mixed marriages. "It used
to be about Chinese women marrying Western men for money," Xu
"Now we see that love plays a more important role in mixed
"Also, don't be surprised to see more Chinese men getting
married to Western women."
Official figures from Shanghai show that in the city alone, 372
Chinese men were in interracial marriages in 2005, up from 91 men
20 years earlier.
And a 2002 figure suggests the age difference was an average of
about 5 years, narrowing from before.
But there are always challenges for couples in mixed marriages,
and there are the little cultural differences that can lead to
misunderstandings and friction.
"It is more difficult to adjust to each other when you are from
a different group of people," Xu said.In 2005, 8,267 mixed couples
filed for divorce, up 42 percent from 2004.
(China Daily June 14, 2007)