Young Chinese question marriage pressure as divorce rate climbs

Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:40am EDT
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By Natalie Thomas

BEIJING (Reuters) - At a registry office in Beijing, Sun Xiangshu and Shi Ci pose for photographs, their wedding certificates in hand, having just officially become man and wife.

But like many unions in China this is a marriage that won't last long. In fact, their wedding is a piece of performance art staged by an artist known as Nut Brother.

The two strangers have been brought together to tie the knot then divorce within 48 hours in an attempt to stir debate about the meaning of the institution of marriage in modern China, which has a soaring divorce rate.

"I have a lot of friends who have been forced to get married. Marriage has taken on a lot of things it shouldn't, it has become mixed up with things like sex, property, care for the elderly and social stability," said Nut Brother.

The decision to get married in China has long been a family affair, with parents traditionally having the last word on their children's spouses.

With a patchy social welfare system and Confucian expectations that the younger generation will take care of the old, questions of material wealth are often more important than compatibility when young people come under pressure to get married and produce the next generation of the family line.

Young people who decide they do not want to tread the traditional marriage path find themselves fighting against established values championed by those at the very top.

"No matter how much times change, no matter how much social structures change, we must all emphasize building a family," President Xi Jinping declared in a Spring Festival address last year.   Continued...

Fake marriage participants Sun Xiangshu and Shi Ci pose with divorce papers outside a court in Beijing, China, in this still image taken from video shot on March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Reuters TV