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International Marriages Popular in Shanghai

Last year witnessed a 10 percent increase in the number of international marriages. As the age gap narrows and more foreign female partners get involved, there may be a real chance of love, writes Tian Xiuzhen

Zhou said among the 3,300 registered marriages, nearly half are made up of Shanghai women and Japanese men. Most of these women married to Japanese men are divorced or from Shanghai suburbs.

Marriage has no national boundaries, nor does it have any guarantee of happiness or sadness even when you see merry Shanghai natives hook elbows with their partner of another nationality.

In the year 2001, the city saw nearly 3,300 such international couples head to the altar, a 10 percent increase on the year 2000.

"Local citizens registered for marriage with people from over 60 countries from around the world in 2001," said Zhou Jixiang, director of Shanghai Marriage Registry Office under the Municipal Civil Administration Bureau.

"It is a symbol that the city is opening more and more to the outside world."

Among the registered, many couples click in their workplace. As more foreign capital flows into Shanghai, more foreigners come to work here, which offers more chances for international marriages, Zhou said.

Easy Fortune

The age gap has been reduced to six to eight years and there are more foreign women marrying Shanghai men, another positive sign encouraging the registry office.

"This was not always the case," Zhou said. "Usually the age difference would be around 20-30 years."

Working in the registry office, Zhou and his colleagues would often see a foreign man from an older generation come in with a young Shanghai woman to apply for a marriage certificate.

"We sometimes made mistakes when addressing them, which embarrassed us and the applicants," Zhou said.

There was a time shortly after the country began to open up that Shanghai women went crazy for marriage with foreign men, from any country, with the purpose of going aboard.

Those women, thinking that marriage to a foreigner meant gaining a big and easy fortune, took great chances without worrying much about their future life.

"They risked their youth and only they themselves would know how much they had to pay for what they gained," Zhou said.

Things have improved as Shanghai has developed, but there will still be some who see marriage to a foreign national as a shortcut worth trying.

Zhou said among the 3,300 registered marriages, nearly half are made up of Shanghai women and Japanese men. Most of these women married to Japanese men are divorced or from Shanghai suburbs.

Japanese Bars

"Nobody can be sure that these marriages are the products of love. In my opinion, 90 percent could be fake marriages," said Zhang Tao, newly registered with a Japanese woman.

Zhang, aged 34, showed the photo of Kanno Harumi, his legal wife who looks much younger than her real age 47, with obvious pride.

Harumi was single when her father met Zhang on one of his frequent trips to Shanghai. The father liked Zhang very much and decided to introduce him to his daughter.

The two called each other often for a long period before they finally agreed to meet in Shanghai last September. Luckily and incredibly, they fell in love at first sight.

"I could not believe my eyes. She looked so young and pretty," Zhang said. "I am sure we will have a successful marriage because we share many interests."

The language barrier is not a problem for Zhang because Harumi's mother is a Taiwan native, so she knows a lot about Chinese culture.

However, not all women married to Japanese were as fortunate as Zhang.

"It is much easier for them to make money in Japan, US$500 to 700 a month by simply working in a bar, which might be the reason why they choose Japan," Zhang said.


Some Chinese who live in Japan even make money by organizing Japanese men on tours to Shanghai for the purpose of searching for women.

Most of the time, they are successful at bringing back several women.

Then they will get divorced and the women will be responsible for covering the fees of all procedures, and the Japanese men will get a certain allowance. Some other women will stay with their Japanese husbands, no matter what life is awaiting.

"Such cases happen but we cannot prevent them because we have no legal right to interrogate a couple on the purpose for their marriage," Zhou said.

"International marriage can serve as a bridge of communication between different cultures," Zhou said. "From this perspective, it should be encouraged."

But due to the actual differences such cultural clashes, economic gaps and moral concepts, the country has not yet fully opened services in this area.

There are now over 60 certified matchmaking offices doing business in Shanghai but none are allowed to introduce international marriage.

But many still offer such services under the table, Zhou said. One operation recently faced closure for breaking this rule, and authorities will continue to enforce the regulation.

"It is destined to be a failure, if marriages are made for other reasons besides the marriage," Zhou warned.

To try to prevent miserable cases from happening, the registry office asks new couples to make a vow when getting their certificate.

Registry is only the beginning of a marriage which is in fact a long road for the two to travel. Whether the road will be a floral paradise or a haunting nightmare depends on the mutual understanding and efforts of the two parties, Zhou said.

(Shanghai Star January 24, 2002)

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