Dating apps boom among young Chinese amid pandemic
Chen Xiaoshu

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a dramatic spike in online activities – from commerce to entertainment. And statistics show that online dating platforms have seen a surge in new users in China this year – even at the height of the country's COVID-19 outbreak.

As more people look to technology for romance, some Chinese online dating platforms are getting creative with their approaches.

'One-week Couple'

It's an app feature that assigns users with an online partner for seven days. The goal is to complete some tasks together and see if it can bring out a spark.

The system connects users based on the information they provide. And a recent survey shows a majority of new app users are born after 1995.

"I think those born after 1995 are of a generation that grew up with the internet's development. They prefer to get information and make friends online from an early age. The post-1995 generation tends to be more independent in finding significant others," Xia Yinlan, president of the Association of Marriage and Family Law at China Law Society, said.

"They don't really want to seek advice or ask permission from their elders. The internet has become a place unfamiliar to most parents or relatives, so they can't really interfere," she continued.

In contrast, statistics show that Chinese people born after the 1980s opt for more traditional ways of dating.

Li Enqi, a speed-dating organizer, has been organizing in-person speed dating activities in Beijing for four years. She said most of those who join her events are well-educated people in white-collar professions.

"I make announcements on my WeChat account and organize activities every week. I also provide advice to those who feel too shy to participate," said Li. 

Speed-dating has led Li to understand what is the first thing people look for in a blind date.

"Based on my observation, most of them focus on appearance," she said, adding that she's satisfied with the outcomes of her speed dating activities. For example, in an event of 40 people, at least five pairs will end up seeing each other again.

Despite what seems to be a booming matchmaker market, China's marriage rate has been on the decline for the past seven years. Official data shows the ratio dropping from nearly 10 in 1,000 marriages in 2013 to at least 7 in 1,000 marriages in 2018.

"First, the younger generation is more accepting of situations such as late marriages, cohabitations, and single-parent families. Some of them tend to focus more on how they feel in the moment with a significant other, rather than about whether or not the relationship would last for a lifetime," Xia said.

"Second, emotions take precedence among younger people when considering marriage. For example, something considered taboo in the past, such as men marrying older women, has become common. For many people now, it doesn't matter as long as there is emotional satisfaction," she added.